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G. D. Birla 

THE SHADOW 
OF THE MAHATMA 




A Personal Memoir 


With a Foreword 



The President 
Dr. Rajendra Prasad 


ORIENT LONGMANS 



IN THE SHADOW 
OF THE MAHATMA 

Here Tor the first time, are the rich and 
revealing details of one of the great friend¬ 
ships of modem times. Ghanshyamdas 
Birla was like a son to Gandhiji, and their 
intimate association lasted for thirty-two 
years, ending only with the Mahatma’s 
tragic death at Birla House in Delhi in 
1948. 

Mr. G. D. Birla has reproduced a large 
number of letters written to him by 
Gandhiji, Mahadev Desai and a number 
of other prominent officials. Gandhiji’s 
letters deal with such varied subjects as 
health, diet, Ashram affairs, Harijans, 
Khaddar, and momentous political affairs 
including his interviews with Viceroys and 
other prominent officials. Mr. Birla’s own 
letters are no less revealing. Gandhiji re¬ 
ceived shrewd and accurate reports of what 
important people in England and elsewhere 
thought about the political scene in India. 
By breaking through suspicion apd apply¬ 
ing what he constantly refers td> as the 
‘personal touch’, G. D. Birla wak able to 
win the confidence of a host of men promi¬ 
nent in the public life of England and India 
—men like Lord Lothian, Sir Samuel Hoare 
(now Lord Templewood), Lord Halifax, 

I 

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IN THE SHADOW 
OF THE MAHATMA 
A Personal Memoir 



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IN THE SHADOW 
OF THE MAHATMA 

A Personal Memoir 


By 

G . D . BIR L A 

With a Foreword by the President 
DR. RAJENDRA PRASAD 

I 



ORIENT LONGMANS LTD. 

BOMBAY CALCUTTA MADRAS 


ORIENT LONGMANS LTD. 

17 Chittaranjan Avenue, Calcutta 13 
Nicol Road, Ballard Estate, Bombay 1 
36a Mount Road, Madras 2 
17 Nazim uddin Road, Dacca 

LONGMANS, GREEN AND CO. LTD. 

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Boston House, Strand Street, Cape Town 

LONGMANS, GREEN AND CO. INC. 

55 Fifth Avenue, New York 3 

LONGMANS, GREEN AND CO. 

215 Victoria Street, Toronto 1 



First published, November, 1953 



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Printed in India 

By K. C. Bose at Binani Printers Ltd.. 
38 Strand Road, Calcutta 1. 











FOREWORD 

By the President , Dr. Rajendra Prasad 

When I was approached to write a foreword to this book, 
I readily accepted the invitation. Apart from my long 
and intimate association with Shri Ghanshyamdas Birla 
as a friend who always stood by us during the days of 
our struggle for freedom and helped us, whenever re¬ 
quired, with contribution, I found on reading the book 
in proof that it was going to be a valuable addition to 
the literature on an important subject. 

The period of fight for freedom constitutes an im¬ 
portant epoch in the history of India as it was the time 
which saw the non-violent struggle of India led by 
Mahatma Gandhi against the British rule and its success¬ 
ful termination. What happened in the country in those 
eventful years is well known and newspaper files contain 
ample description of the events that took place. Little, 
however, is known of what was passing behind the scenes, 
both in Mahatma Gandhi’s camp and the Govern¬ 
ment’s. This volume to an extent fills this gap. It 
contains correspondence that passed between Ghan- 
shyamdasji and Mahatmaji and also other political 
leaders of the country over a quarter of a century. It 
also contains reports of interviews and substance of 
conversations which Ghanshyamdasji had with Britishers 
holding high positions in the Government of the day and 
in public life. The Round Table Conference and subse¬ 
quent negotiations between the Government and the 
Congress leaders and the various events just preceding 
the inauguration of independence in India are all matters 
of absorbing interest not only to Indians but also to others 
who want to know the history of those times. This book, 
therefore, will serve as a valuable document for all those 
who are interested in the history of the time and I wel- 


v 


FOREWORD 


come Shri Ghanshyamdas’s decision to publish a part of 
the material which he has in his possession. 

Mahatma Gandhi was a regular correspondent and 
used to reply to writers of letters personally or through 
his Secretary Shri Mahadev Desai or through the pages 
of the Weeklies and in this way through his correspon¬ 
dence he was able to reach and influence the life and 
character of numberless individuals in this country and 
abroad. He had also a peculiar gift of recognising the 
good points in a man and utilising them to the fullest 
extent that he could for the benefit of the country. It 
was thus that in his lifetime he literally created a large 
number of persons who, although they did not see eye 
to eye with Mahatmaji in respect of many of his pro¬ 
grammes, yet rendered invaluable service in their own 
spheres under his inspiration. Ghanshyamdasji was one 
of such persons. He did not always agree, but like a 
soldier obeyed the command of the master. These pages 
will show how, even though he did not always see eye to 
eye with Bapu, particularly in matters relating to his 
economic programme, yet without any reservation help¬ 
ed every cause sponsored by him. He also proved him¬ 
self to be a trusted exponent of Gandhiji’s viewpoint to 
many Britishers as far as Gandhiji’s political programme 
was concerned. One can see from the book how he 
undertook visit after visit to England on his own and 
utilised the opportunity for keeping those in places of 
authority there well informed about the way Gandhiji’s 
mind was working. He never claimed to act as an ap¬ 
pointed agent on behalf of Gandhiji and yet having 
studied and understood his philosophy and his pro¬ 
gramme, he took upon himself the responsibility to con¬ 
vey its implications to those that counted. And it may 
be said that he succeeded in no small measure in this 
self-appointed role. 

It is not only in regard to the political movements of 
Gandhiji that we get a clear glimpse into the working of 


VI 


FOREWORD 


his mind as is rightly understood by Shri Ghanshyamdas 
but in regard to other matters too. Ghanshyamdasji was 
one of those few who became like a child of Gandhiji and 
in whom the seed of his teachings found a well-prepared 
field and his message a ready response. This influence 
grew as the intimacy between the two grew, which lasted 
for nearly 32 years. And it was my privilege and joy 
to watch and observe this relation over a number of years. 
Because if he was intimate with Gandhiji, he was not less 
intimate with me. 

It has been one of Gandhiji’s teachings that those who 
are blessed with wealth should regard themselves as 
Trustees and treat their wealth as trust property for the 
benefit of others. The large number of institutions 
which are to be seen in so many parts of the country 
either in the shape of educational institutions or religious 
temples and Bharamshalas or Hospitals with their apex 
at Pilani and Delhi are testimony to the fact that Birlas 
have imbibed this part of Gandhiji’s teachings in no small 
measure. They have earned abundantly and likewise 
spent also generously and abundantly on every good 
cause. Apart from the institutions which have been esta¬ 
blished and are run by themselves there are plenty of 
others which have been recipients of donations from 
them. It can be said with truth that there is hardly a good 
cause on whose behalf an appeal made to them has not 
evoked a ready response. This applies equally to the 
independence struggle to which they contributed through 
Bapu and other political leaders, liberally and without 
any reservation. These pages will amply show how 
Gandhiji could draw upon their generosity for any good 
cause and scheme which he had in hand. Gandhiji in 
fact never hesitated to draw on their resources when it 
was necessary to do so, nor did they ever hesitate to put 
their resources at his disposal. 

These pages will show further how Gandhiji in the 
midst of his multifarious engagements found time to think 


vu 


FOREWORD 


of small details and take personal interest in all the affairs 
of Birlas as a father does in respect of his children. He 
even went to the length of prescribing treatments for 
ailments to a person like Ghanshyamdasji who had no 
* lack of medical aid but because he felt confident that 
his advice would be listened to with respect and given 
effect to. 

I am, therefore, glad that this volume is being pub¬ 
lished. I am sure it will be useful and helpful not only 
to every student of Gandhiji’s life and philosophy but also 
to the historians interested in the events which ultimately 
led to the establishment of independence in India. 

Rashtrapati Bhawan, Rajendra Prasad 

New Delhi. 

2nd November , 1953 . 


Vlll 


CONTENTS 


CHAPTER PAGE 

FOREWORD . . . . V 

INTRODUCTION . . . . xi 

I I WAS AN OUTCAST . . . . 1 

II LALA LAJPAT RAI . . 20 

III OFF TO LONDON . . . . 32 

IV CONSTITUTIONAL SAFEGUARDS . . 52 

V LORD LOTHIAN IN INDIA . . 62 

VI SAFEGUARDS AGAIN . . 70 

VII THE HARIJANS . . ^ . . 75 

VIII BIRTH OF A MAGAZINE . . 92 

DC MORE ABOUT THE HARIJANS . . . . 120 

X POLITICAL INTERLUDE . . . . 129 

XI THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA BILL - . . 142 

XII A CRITICAL PERIOD . . . . 147 

XIII HINDUS AND MOSLEMS . . . . 159 

XIV PILANI . . . . 164 

XV LONDON CONTACTS . . 169 

XVI HIGH HOPES IN ENGLAND . . . . 188 

XVII RETURN TO INDIA . . . . 198 

XVIII THE LINLITHGOW REGIME . . . . 205 

XIX CONGRESS TAKES OFFICE . . . . 216 

XX 1937 .. .. .. 230 

XXI SOME INNER HISTORY . . . . 233 

XXII NEW ministers' difficulties .. .. 240 

XXIII WARTIME EPISODES . . . . 255 

XXIV INDIA IN THE WAR . . . . 261 

XXV FRIENDS OF INDIA . . . . 271 

XXVI DEADLOCK . . . . 275 

XXVII THE RAJKOT EPISODE . . . . 286 

XXVin SOME CROSSWORD PUZZLES AND SOLUTIONS . . 299 

XXIX A PERSONAL EXPLANATION . . . . 305 

XXX BAPU AS CORRESPONDENT . . . . 309 

XXXI THE COMING OF INDEPENDENCE . . 314 

XXXII AFTER INDEPENDENCE . . . . 327 

APPENDIX . . . . . . 333 

INDEX OF PROPER NAMES . . . . 335 


IX 







ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 


The Author and Publishers are grateful to— 

(1) The Navjivan Trust for permission to publish letters of 
Mahatma Gandhi and Shri Mahadev Desai; and 

(2) Srimati Maniben Patel and the Trustees of the late 
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel; Lord Linlithgow and the Trustees of 
the second Marquess of Linlithgow ; Sir Winston Churchill; Lord 
Halifax ; Lord Templewood ; Sir George Cunningham ; Sir Edmund 
Gibson; Shri C. Rajagopalachariar and Dr. B. C. Roy for per¬ 
mission to reproduce hitherto unpublished letters. 

(3) Acknowledgment is also due to the Editor of the 
The Times for permission to reproduce two excerpts. 


v 




X 


INTRODUCTION 


To choose a title for this book was the most puzzling 
task I have had to encounter. ‘My Correspondence 
with Gandhiji’ was a proposal which I did not like. 
True, this is substantially a compilation of my corres¬ 
pondence with Gandhiji and his Secretary Mahadev 
Desai who, under the direction of the Master, wrote to 
me at length when Gandhiji was too busy to write him¬ 
self and kept me well informed of the events in his camp. 
But mere correspondence would not tell the whole story. 
I therefore deliberately decided to include also in this 
book the records of the various interviews that I have 
had from time to time with the British Viceroys, British 
statesmen and others. To have excluded them would have 
left a blank patch in the picture. I have also included in 
the book a few other letters from different political leaders 
which I thought would be relevant to the subject. After 
the inclusion of all this material, a title confined to nar¬ 
row boundaries would have been a misnomer. I there¬ 
fore decided to choose the title In the Shadow of the 
Mahatma : A Personal Memoir , for in all my actions I 
felt he was close beside me, and I was his shadow. 

From the day on which Gandhiji landed in India from 
South Africa towards the close of the year 1915 to the 
day on which he died by the bullet of the assassin, he 
kept India, so to say, in a churn. Almost every day his¬ 
tory was created; new ideas, new ambitions, new visions 
were unfolded before the eyes of the nation by its father. 
As the churning continued, cream began to float on the 
surface; and so also the impurities. Gandhiji has gone, 
but the momentum of the churning that he left is still 
continuing. Whether we shall produce fresh, pure butter 
through this churning, or whether it will be adulterated 
with impurities, or whether we shall be left with merely 
the impurities without the butter, is more than I can 


xi 


INTRODUCTION 


endeavour to predict. Much will depend on the people 

themselves 

I could easily have woven a story round the corres¬ 
pondence and the records and given the reader a kind 
of complete chronological picture. But this is a task 
essentially for the historian. I should be content to pre¬ 
sent the material in its crudest form as I have it with me. 
The material contained in it will bring to light many 
events not so far known, which went to forge new links 
for the ultimate chain—the political history of India. 
When the historian sits down to paint the picture of this 
period, he will find material in these pages to fill in his 
canvass with many different hues. 

There are obvious gaps in the chronology- I meticu¬ 
lously preserved all the letters that I received from Gan- 
f dhiji or which were written under his influence by Maha- 
dev Desai (I have treated all the letters from Mahadev 
Desai and his other Secretaries as if they were letters 
from Gandhiji, since they were written under his direc¬ 
tion), but unfortunately, I did not preserve all those that 
I wrote to him- Of course, when I was staying with 
Gandhiji, there was no correspondence but, regrettably, 
I did not preserve the records of my talks with him. I am 
not including in these pages all the letters that he wrote 
to me, for they would make a huge volume beyond the 
reach of the ordinary man. Hence the choice is deli¬ 
berately restricted to those which I feel are the most im¬ 
portant or revealing. Wherever the gap is small it is 
perhaps because I was with him at the time. But where 
the gap is as big as it is some time in 1931 and again 
between 1942 and 1944, it was because Gandhiji was 
then in jail and there could be no correspondence with 
him. Besides this, many records I received from Maha- 
devbhai and to which he refers in his letters cannot, 
unfortunately, now be traced. But although to this extent 
the story is incomplete, the flow is not appreciably broken. 
The historian will not find it difficult to link the events 


• • 
xn 


INTRODUCTION 


because, though there may be breaks, the sequence of 
the letters is apparent. 

My first meeting with Gandhiji was in 1916 when he 
came to Calcutta shortly after he landed from South 
Africa. Our contact continued to the end of his life— 
a period of 32 years—when he died in my house in Delhi. 
How did I come in touch with him? The hidden hand 
of destiny, which works in an inscrutable manner, should 
alone be credited with this fortunate occurrence in my 
life. I had no political background and was therefore 
hardly worthy to be noticed by a world figure. I was 
born in 1894 in a village with a population of barely 
three thousand. There being no modem means of com¬ 
munication with the rest of the world either by rail, 
pucca road or post office, our village was virtually isola¬ 
ted from the hubbub of political ferment. The outlet for 
travelling was by camel, horse or bullock-chariot. A bul¬ 
lock-chariot was a luxury maintained specially by the 
well-to-do and mainly for the ladies and the infirm. The 
horse was a rare creature mostly used by the landed 
gentry. My family had two very good camels and we 
later acquired a bullock-chariot. But the camel remained 
for ever the most useful and popular means of convey¬ 
ance. People these days do not look upon the prospect 
of a long journey by camel with any enthusiasm, but the 
animal always fascinated me by its endurance, patience 
and stupidity- I remember the excitement I felt when I 
once had to travel by camel continuously for six days. 

In our village no one bothered with newspapers; not 
even half a dozen persons could have read them. And 
where were the newspapers in those days? No one in 
the village could read and write English. Nor was there 
a school. A few people could read and write simple 
Hindi or Urdu, but perhaps only one in a hundred. At 
the age of four I was put under a tutor who claimed to 
know more arithmetic than reading and writing. And 
so my education began with figures—addition, subtract 


xin 


INTRODUCTION 


tion, multiplication, division etc. At the age of nine I 
learnt a little reading and writing and got a smattering 
of English. My school education, however, ended with 
the First Book of Reading by Pyarecharan Sarkar, when 
I was only eleven. 

My great-grandfather was a manager in a commercial 
house on a paltry pittance of Rs. 10/- per month and 
when he died, my grandfather, at the age of eighteen, 
decided to start his own independent business and so went 
forth to Bombay to seek his fortune. Subsequently my 
father expanded the concern and when I was born we 
were considered to be quite a well-to-do family with an 
established business stretching back nearly 35 years. 
Thus when I concluded my so-called schooling I was 
directed to join the family business and, at the age of 
twelve, I took a plunge into it. But I was fond of learn¬ 
ing, and continued my self-inflicted education even after 
leaving school. Somehow or other I hated to be taught 
by a teacher, so after I left school, my books, the news¬ 
papers, a dictionary and a copy-book became my main 
tutors. It was in this way that I learnt English, Sanskrit 
and one or two other Indian languages, History and Eco¬ 
nomics, and read quite a large number of biographies and 
chronicles of travels, of which I am still fond. 

Perhaps my reading may have inspired me to work 
for the political freedom of the country and to make 
contacts with the political leaders of the day. The 
Russo-Japanese War had created a wave of enthusiasm 
among the Asiatic nations and India did not escape this 
surge. As a child my sympathies were definitely with 
Japan, and the ambition of seeing India free began to 
excite me. But, as I have said, we had no political back¬ 
ground in the family or the village or the community in 
which I was born. My interest in politics, therefore, was 
not looked upon with great favour by those around me. 
But all this was not enough to attract me towards Gandhiji 


xiv 


INTRODUCTION 


and so I still believe that it was the kind hand of Fate 
that brought me to him. 

When I was sixteen I started an independent business 
of my own as a broker, and thus began my contact with 
Englishmen, who were my patrons and clients. During 
my association with them I began to see their superiority 
in business methods, their organising capacity and their 
many other virtues- But their racial arrogance could not 
be concealed. I was not allowed to use the lift to go 
up to their offices, nor their benches while waiting to 
see them. I smarted under these insults, and this created 
within me a political interest which, from 1912 until to¬ 
day, I have fully maintained. There were no political 
leaders, apart from the late Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar 
Tilak and Gokhale, with whom I did not associate; there 
were no political moves in the country in which I did 
not take a deep interest and try to help in my own way. 

Having involved myself with the terrorists of those 
days, I once got into serious trouble and had to go ‘under¬ 
ground’ for nearly three months. The intervention of 
some kindly friends saved me from prison. It must be 
said, however, that I never had a great taste for terrorism, 
and after my contact with Gandhiji whatever traces re¬ 
mained were altogether eradicated. 

With this background it was natural that I should be 
attracted towards Gandhiji. I started as his critic and 
ultimately became his fast devotee. It would be totally 
incorrect, however, to say that I agreed with Gandhiji 
on all points. In fact, on most problems I took my own 
independent counsel. There was not much in common 
between us so far as our mode of life went. Gandhiji 
was a saintly person who had renounced all the comforts 
and luxuries of life. Religion was his main absorption 
and this interest of his drew me irresistibly towards him. 
His outlook on economics, however, was different. He 
believed in small-scale industries— Charkha, Ghani and 
all that. I, on the other hand, led a fairly comfortable 


xv 


INTRODUCTION 


life and believed in the industrialisation of the country 
through large-scale industries. How then did we come 
to have such a close association? Why did I continue 
to inspire his trust and affection? I should attribute this 
mainly to his greatness and generosity. I have not come 
across many men possessing the charm, the affection and 
the devotion to their friends that Gandhiji had. A saint 
is not very difficult for the world to produce, and political 
leaders are put forth in plenty, but real men are not to 
be found in abundance on this earth. Gandhiji was a 
man among men—a rare specimen not produced by the 
world even once in a century. And yet people have 
known so little of him as a man. The result was that, 
although I did not agree with him on many problems, I 
never refused to obey his wishes. For his part, he not 
only tolerated my independence of thought, but loved 
me all the more for it, as a father would his child. Our 
relations, therefore, became more in the nature of a family 
attachment, of a father towards a son, which lasted to 
the end of his life. 

The last that I saw of him was his dead body. It was 
the cruelty of fate that I was not with him when he 
breathed his last. I left him only ten hours before he 
died. I had to go to my village—a place about 120 miles 
from Delhi—where I had taken an important Minister 
to show him my educational institutions. I left my house 
in the morning at 7 o’clock. Before leaving, I went to 
Gandhiji’s room to say good-bye. But he was resting 
and was fast asleep, so I did not disturb him. Ten hours 
later, in Pilani, my son came rushing to tell me that the 
radio had announced that Gandhiji had been shot dead 
by an assassin. I could not believe it. But there was 
no escape. 

It was not possible to return at once to Delhi, for even 
to-day the village is unconnected either by railway or 
road, so I had to stay there overnight. I had a disturbed 
sleep. I dreamt that I had gone back to my house in 

xvi 





INTRODUCTION 


Delhi where Gandhiji had been staying and went into 
his room, to find his dead body lying prostrate. On my 
entering he sat up and said: ‘I am glad you have returned. 
This shooting is no stray incident, it was a deep conspi¬ 
racy. But I am glad they have done away with me. I 
have done my work and I don’t regret that I am depar¬ 
ting.’ We talked for some time. After that he took 
out his watch and said, ‘Now it is time for the funeral 
and people will come to take me away, and so I am 
lying down.’ And he lay back and became motionless. 
What a dream! But it was perhaps the echo of my own 
heart. 

Next morning I returned to my house in Delhi and 
entered the room where his dead body was lying. A 
crowd of a million people had surrounded Birla House. 
He was lying calm and serene. He did not look as if 
he were dead. That was the last that I saw of him. 

Years before, in a letter dated 16 June 1940, Mahadev 
Desai told me that he had had a letter from the Private 
Secretary to Lord Linlithgow saying that the German 
wireless had broadcast the news that British agents were 
planning Gandhiji’s assassination, but expressing a fear 
that the wish was father to the thought and that it might 
well be that German agents might plan this thing in 
order to create propaganda against the British. It was, 
therefore, as well for everyone to be careful, and would 
Gandhiji care to have unobtrusive police placed about 
him? His Excellency would be very glad to arrange it. 
Mahadev said he replied, ‘Gandhiji wants no such thing, 
as having lived under the threat of assassination for a 
generation he had come to learn by experience that not a 
blade of grass moves except by His will and no assassin 
can curtail anybody’s life or a friend protect it.’ Maha¬ 
dev added that this was in Bapu’s own language. How 
truly events were casting their shadow nearly eight years 
before the end came! But it was neither German nor 


xvu 


INTRODUCTION 


British agents who acted for Destiny. The assassin was 
an Indian—an orthodox Hindu. 

After the first attempt to kill Gandhiji with a bomb 
proved abortive, very strong security measures were taken 
by the Government, so much so that in every nook and 
corner of my bouse sentries and plain-clothes armed police 
were seen loitering. I felt unhappy over this excessive 
precaution. 

In 1913 Lord Hardinge, the then Viceroy, had gone 
to Banaras to lay the foundation stone of the Banaras 
Hindu University. Previously a bomb had been thrown 
at him while he was entering the new Capital in proces¬ 
sion. Strong security measures were therefore taken to 
guard his life in Banaras. Police with rifles and revolvers 
were posted even in nearby ponds. Gandhiji detested the 
need for all this fuss and publicly criticised the fact that 
the Viceroy should be made to suffer a living death. 

I once reminded Gandhiji of these remarks of his and 
added, ‘Is it not unseemly that even our prayers should 
be held under the shadow of bayonets? I am jealous of 
your life, but more than that I am jealous of your reputa¬ 
tion. Will you allow this over-policing when you have 
hated all such measures throughout your life?’ Gandhiji 
agreed and said, ‘Try to find out from Vallabhbhai who 
is responsible for all this. I hate these measures, but I 
have to tolerate them, not to protect myself, but to pro¬ 
tect the reputation of the Government.’ I did talk to 
Sardar afterwards and, as was his habit, he tersely replied, 
‘Why are you worried? This is not your business. The 
responsibility is mine. Left to myself I should like to 
search every man entering Birla House, but Bapu will 
not let me.’ Cruel fate willed, and in Mahadev’s words, 
but Gandhiji’s language, ‘No friend could protect him.’ 
I myself used to attend the prayers with a pistol concealed 
in my belt and used to watch every soul who moved to¬ 
wards him. But this was all vanity. ‘Not a blade of 
grass moves except by His will!’ 

xviii . 


INTRODUCTION 


Very nearly two years after this event, another big 
soul departed to whom I was equally attached. That was 
Sardar Patel. He was the staunchest follower of the 
Mahatma in every respect anil especially so in austerity. 
He was called an iron man who, under his posed stiffness, 
concealed any amount of softness. He too had his inde¬ 
pendent views and yet, in every move, political or social, 
followed the lead of his Master. He quarrelled with him 
privately and followed him publicly. It is curious that 
many big men in India differed from Gandhiji, yet follow¬ 
ed him, often blindly. It was undoubtedly his charm and 
loyalty to his friends which made him achieve this para¬ 
doxical miracle, and so although Sardar did not agree 
with him on some points, he followed him unreservedly 
on every occasion. Sardar developed coronary thrombo¬ 
sis after Gandhiji died. It was the shock of Gandhiji’s 
death that broke his heart. An ordinary mortal would 
have wept and thus let off steam, but Sardar did not 
show his grief and so it went to his heart. I came under 
his spell some 28 years before his death, and our mutual 
attachment continued to the end. 

Though Sardar, too, died in my house, it is another 
irony of Fate that I was not with him during his last 
moments. He left Delhi for Bombay four days before 
his death. A very large number of his friends, including 
some Ministers, came to see him off at the aerodrome. 
Sitting in a chair, he saluted everyone with a sad smile 
from the door of the aeroplane. He knew that he was 
going to pass away very soon. I too knew that he was 
soon going to embark upon his Endless Journey, but I 
persuaded myself into believing that the end was not so 
near, so I was left behind. Four days later he left us 
for ever. The last that I saw of Sardar too was just his 
dead body. 

Mahadev Desai died in 1942 while in the Aga Khan 
Palace, which had been converted into a prison. He too 
was a fast friend, and died in the lap of his Master when 


xix 


INTRODUCTION 


his friends were not near him. He was the dearest of 
men. Mahadev was made by the Mahatma, but it would 
not be incorrect to say that, to some extent, the Mahatma 
too was moulded by Mahadev. Mahadev Desai was a 
man of great charm and affection, extremely learned and 
possessed of great persuasive powers. Whenever he 
found Bapu obstinate in some matter, it was only Sardar 
and Mahadev who could divert the great leader from his 
path. And many a time he was compelled to yield, often 
after a loss of temper and many a time after a hearty 
laugh. 

What would the history of India be to-day if all these 
three were alive and in robust health, with another ten 
or fifteen years span of life before them? This is a 
pointless speculation. I believe a man departs when his 
task ends. We need not mourn them. The burden of 
responsibility is now on the generation of to-day and of 
the future. Perhaps these pages may pass on some of 
the inspiration that these men have left behind for us. 

On 18th July, 1935, I met Mr. Baldwin in London. 
In the course of conversation he made the following 
remarks which I noted down at the time: f 

‘Democracy has its defects, but it has proved to be 
the best system so far. Thank God, we have not got 
dictatorship in this country. A benevolent dictatorship 
is a very good thing in its own way, but then under such 
a dictatorship you have to do nothing but sit back. Now 
this is wrong. Under democracy all of you have to work. 
This is the best virtue of democracy. Now this experi¬ 
ment in India therefore will succeed if everyone works. 
It is an experiment in democracy, and so without every¬ 
one working, it can never succeed ... In a democracy 
a section could be nasty. We should not judge people 
by these sections, but the Congress as such must realise 
that there is great scope for them to do good to their 
country.’ 

On the 18th July 1937, Bapu wrote to me after we 


xx 


INTRODUCTION 


assumed responsibility for establishing a democratic 
government saying, ‘Our real trouble begins now. So 
much is good that our future depends on our strength, 
truthfulness, courage, determination, diligence and dis¬ 
cipline. What you have been doing is good ... In the 
end, what has been done is done in the name of God and 
with trust in God. Good you will be. Good you remain. 
I give you my blessings.’ 

Mr. Baldwin had said, ‘Under democracy all of you 
have to work.’ Bapu emphasized that our future would 
depend on our ‘strength, truthfulness, courage, determi¬ 
nation, diligence and discipline.’ Both said the same 
thing in a different manner, and they should serve as 
our beacon. 




I 















■ 














. , I ■■ 













■ 































■ 
























1 






















































































































CHAPTER I 

I WAS AN OUTCAST 

This is a book about the importance of knowing people, 
the value of personal contact. I have compiled it from 
my files of the correspondence between myself and others 
covering more than a quarter of a century, and from 
copies of documents sent me by Gandhiji and others in 
this critical period of history. In India we are emo¬ 
tional. We respond to friendship; we are moved by 
love and sympathy; we feel pity. We are also capable 
of strong hatreds, but these are generally against aggre¬ 
gates and systems; and if they are against individuals they 
are as often as not against those whom we have not met 
or seen, and more often than not they are against those 
whose names are made odious to us by propaganda con¬ 
cerning them. Contact reveals truth, and sometimes 
even unpleasant truths, as supposed swans may turn out 
to be geese. In his penetrating letter on the misdeeds of 
some comrades who gave up their professions to take up 
the national cause and were then forced to make a living 
in devious ways, the late Mahadev Desai gave a pro¬ 
phetic warning of danger in this respect. But in the 
main the good we discover in others by knowing them 
better far outweighs the evil, as my story shows. Wise 
men have always made ‘Know thyself’ a first motto; the 
second and third are probably ‘Know each other’ and 
‘Do to others as you would be done by’; and these involve 
personal contact, except for those who can live and die 
unto themselves, which most of us cannot do. 

As upon most of my countrymen, Gandhiji has exer¬ 
cised a deep influence upon me. Inevitably I looked for¬ 
ward to the day when India would be independent, though 
I never doubted the good faith of the British people and 
their Parliament when they declared that this also was 
their goal in India. Gandhiji in his earlier phases also 


1 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


had this confidence, but the Rowlatt Report and the subse¬ 
quent Act (which, by the way, was never applied) un¬ 
dermined it. Such connection as I have had with poli¬ 
tics is in the economic field, but I sought to prevent the 
growing distrust which the British in India entertained 
of Gandhiji’s high motives and the passionate distrust 
which Indians felt in regard not merely to the English 
in India but towards British statesmen and the British 
Parliament. Gandhi]i was the dominant influence in my 
life because of my feeling as a Hindu. I come of a 
family of merchants which has a tradition of sanatan 
dharma, the eternal religion of duty. My grandfather 
and those like him may be compared to the Quakers in 
England and America. Like the Quakers, they pros¬ 
pered miraculously in business affairs but considered it 
their duty to spend freely on good works. Like the 
Quakers, they were not ‘orthodox’, that is to say they 
were not bound rigidly by caste restrictions; the Birla 
Education Trust has served to give an impetus to the 
emancipation of women, and to train Harijans or 
outcasts—whose cause Gandhiji championed so warmly 
—for careers on a footing of equality. However, it 
is not for me here to speak about the work of the 
Birla Education Trust. My point is that Gandhiji’s 
influence over me was more through his religious 
character—his sincerity and search for truth—than 
his power as a political leader. Often i could not follow 
his reasoning and sometimes I disagreed with him, but 
always there was the belief that he must somehow be 
right in a sense that I could not grasp. Whatever sum 
he asked from me (and he was, as he put it, an inveterate 
beggar for the causes he worked for) he knew that he 
would get, because there was nothing I could refuse him. 
But he was never a dictator and was essentially humble. 
Also, as the correspondence shows, whenever I could 
not follow his argument and said so, he took criticism 
without the slightest anger. He was not being merely 


2 



I WAS AN OUTCAST 


considerate or conventionally polite when he said he re¬ 
garded his friends as his mentors. He was willing to 
take their advice, provided it would' not deflect him from 
his search for ultimate truth, the reality behind all created 
things, God, the Creator! 

It was in 1924, when he had completed his autobiogra¬ 
phy My Experiments with Truth that I first began to keep 
my correspondence with him and with others on kindred 
subjects. I was in great trouble and it was to Bapu that 
I naturally turned for advice. The Marwari Community, 
a very ‘orthodox’ one, was boycotting my family socially 
for our modernism. This roused me to anger, and I 
was in no mood to practise Gandhian ahimsa, and take 
things lying down. I had already written to Gandhiji, sug¬ 
gesting that he was too gentle and trustful in dealing 
with opponents and that some of his swans were geese. 
His reply was that he did not trust anybody too much 
but ‘when both parties are in the wrong it becomes diffi¬ 
cult to decide how much one is to blame more than the 
other. I have therefore thought out a sample plan— 
to do good even to the evil doer.’ Now when I inveighed 
against the benighted bigots in my community, he calmed 
me with assurances which have since been fulfilled : 

Juhu, Bombay, 
13th May , 1924. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Your letter. 

I am sure an attitude of tolerance towards opposition from 
members of your community will bear fruit in the end. We all 
have, working within us, both divine and dark forces. There¬ 
fore some amount of agitation is bound to persist. But there is 
nothing to be afraid of. Sustained resistance will ultimately 
defeat the forces of darkness. But we must believe at heart that 
it is our duty to help the forces of light. I am anxious about 
your father and brother. If they are thinking of organising those 
in your favour and fighting out the issue and you are not able to 
keep them on the path of peace, what is to be dreaded is the pos¬ 
sibility of the birth of two mutually hostile tendencies. On such 


3 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

occasions we are on the horns of a dilemma as to what exactly we 
should do. I would also pray them to desist from a course of 
action which might lead to two hostile factions in your own 
community. 

I certainly would not advise you to apologise for something 
which you did simply because you considered it the right thing to 
do and about the worthiness of which even to-day you have no 
misgivings whatsoever. 

I got Rs. 5,000/- sent on your behalf. You can send what¬ 
ever amount you consider reasonable for Young India and 
Navjivan. About fifty copies are to be given free. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mohandas Gandhi 

On 11th June I wrote to Gandhiji:— 

Your letters always give me fresh solace. There are two 
groups now, but their actions are not based on any principle. We 
have acted ‘selflessly’ to a certain extent, even though that has 
meant a certain amount of suffering; still I would not say our 
deeds have been as free from blemish as they ought to have been. 
This may be due to a family weakness as also to religious scruples. 
It will do great good to people if you keep writing on social topics 
in the Navjivan. 

The Swarajists have openly declared for violence at the 
Sirajganj conference, thus tearing off the mask of non-violence. 
The sham practised in the name of non-violence is now over. 
It is quite possible you will now be reduced to a minority, but 
from the standpoint of purity with which work will be done in 
future it will be a gain so great that I cannot properly conceive 
the strength generated by it. 

You have preached non-violence to me and I have listened 
to you in full faith. But away from your presence, I am assailed 
by misgivings of all sorts. I have not an iota of doubt that non¬ 
violence is an excellent objective. But supposing a man of your 
type, who, though in this world, is not of it, kills another for the 
good of the world, will that be termed violence? What I believe is 
that any selfless action done without attachment is akarma 
(inaction). But if a common man who is not free from the 
temptations of the world, kills somebody, it would be a case of 
manslaughter, pure and simple. But can this kind of killing not 
be reduced to some well-defined method? You yourself have 


4 


1 WAS AN OtTTCASf 


Said it is better to return a blow for a blow than to take to one*s 
heels. What I cannot comprehend is advising people to act ac¬ 
cording to this extreme form of non-violence. You also advise 
people to receive blows from lathis uncomplainingly—which is 
something too much to expect from them. Why they should not 
be asked to wield the sword, is something I do not understand. 
I also fear that it may so happen that people neither achieve the 
best type of non-violence nor use the sword to protect the honour 
of their wives and daughters. Now that the Hindu Mahasabha 
and the Aryasamaj have exhorted people to wield the sword, the 
Muslims are a little bit afraid of attacking them. I know this 
intensifies the quarrel now, but I am not sure that this would not 
be the last of the quarrels. 

We also find that those Hindus who were converted to Islam 
two hundred years ago are now as bigoted Muslims as those 
originally hading from Arabia or Iran, though at the time of their 
conversion they must have felt strongly against their converters. 
This proves that shuddhi ensured by force can ultimately lead to 
the establishment of harmonious relations between the Hindus 
and the neo-converts. You tell me reforms ensured by force are 
not lasting, but when I find that the British could put an end to 
the odious practice of suttee with the help of force why could not 
other reforms also be carried out by the same means? You told 
me Islam did not spread with the help of the sword, but I have 
gathered from old writings that a large number of Hindus were 
converted to Islam forcibly. In 1829 Lord Bentinck mentioned 
in one of his dispatches to the Directors of the East India Com¬ 
pany that the Muslims resorted to force in claiming new converts. 

We can even popularise khadi and ensure the boycott of 
British goods by means of a protective tariff which is a form of 
brute force. If the Government so wishes, it can put a stop to 
many social evils. This being the position, I do not see any harm 
if the Ary a Samajists do a bit of proselytizing by resorting to force 
and thereby add to the number of the Hindus. There is not the 
least doubt that those Muslims who are taken into the Hindu fold 
forcibly would come to love the Hindus as much as the latter do 
each other. 

I should like to make it clear, however, that I do not at all 
approve of these violent methods. I am inclined towards non¬ 
violence, but at times I begin to ask myself if this propensity is 


5 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

not the result of sheer inertia. I have only set forth my doubts 
and should like to have convincing answers to them. 

If, however, you hold that the purity of the means employed 
should be kept unsullied irrespective of whether we are successful 
or not, then I have nothing whatever to say. But those who do 
not seek salvation and follow the ordinary course of life would 
be extremely disinclined to do anything, however good in itself, 
without taking into account its consequences. They are concern¬ 
ed with the objective ; they do not worry about the means employed 
in achieving it. 

I should like to stress once again that violent methods are 
becoming increasingly distasteful to me, and that I have written 
all this just to get my difficulties solved. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 20th June, 1924. 

Your letter. 

We should remain non-violent and unmindful of whether 
we succeed or fail in our undertaking. This is the only natural 
way of explaining the principle of non-violence. A more proper 
way of understanding non-violence is having a firm faith in its 
sure success. Let us not concern ourselves as to whether our 
efforts are crowned with success to-day or years later. Those who 
were forcibly converted to Islam say two hundred years ago 
cannot be a source of strength to it inasmuch as the policy of com¬ 
pulsion was resorted to in converting them. Similarly there he 
hidden the germs of destruction in the propagation of Hinduism 
through force of deceit. What happens is that we are misled by 
immediate results ; in a large society two hundred years are a mpre 
nothing. 

But to make people give up their bad habits with the help 
of law cannot be described as the use of violence or brute force. 
To stop the sale of liquor by law and thus force people to give up 
the habit of drinking is not violence. If it were suggested that 
those given to drinking should be whipped, it would certainly be 
brute force. Selling liquor is not our duty. 

Yours sincerely, 

Bapu 

Evidently I was not convinced, and must have returned 
to the charge, as his next letter shows:— 


6 


« 


I WAS AN OUTCAST 

20th July, 1924. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

God has given me mentors, and I regard you as one of them. 
Among them are some of my own children, some sisters and 
some others like yourself and Jamnalalji* who are grown-up. They 
all wish me to become a perfect man. Understanding this, how 
can I be offended with your letter ? I want you to always 
caution me like this. 

You complain against three things: First, my absolving the 
Swarajya Party from the charge of aspiring to Office; second, my 
granting a testimonial to Suhrawardy; and third, my endeavour¬ 
ing to secure the Congress Presidentship for Sarojini. 

In the first place after necessary suffering it becomes a man’s 
duty to say only that which he holds to be the truth, even 
though the world views it as a mistake. Nothing else can make 
a man fearless. I regard my salvation as the dearest of all objec¬ 
tives, but if that salvation goes against Truth and Non-Violence 
I will give up the former for the latter. Among these three I 
have always served Truth. When I say this, I have in mind 
what you told me at Juhu. In the absence of any definite proof 
it becomes my duty to treat the Swarajya party as innocent of 
the charge. If you give me proof I assure you of my fullest 
consideration. 

As regards Suhrawardyji, I only testified to his wisdom and 
I am having practical experience of it even now. 

You are unnecessarily worried about Sarojini. She has 
served India well, and is still doing so. While I have done nothing 
in particular just now for her presidentship, I am convinced that 
if others who have so far occupied that position, were fit for it, 
she too is fit. Everybody is enamoured of her enthusiasm, I 
myself bear witness to her courage. I have noticed nothing wrong 
about her. 

But from all this you need not infer that I approve of all 
that she or anybody else does. 

God has inhabited this our world with objects 
Living and inanimate, good, had, indifferent; 

The wise are concerned only with the good 

Just as the swan sucks milk, leaving water alone. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mohandas Gandhi 

* Seth Jamnalal Bajaj. '] 


7 


* 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

Keep good health, and I will get a lot of work out of you ; 
and also give you some. Take milk for at least fifteen days if 
you like. Take fruit but no bread. Make it a rule to take butter¬ 
milk. 

15th September, 1924. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

I have been getting your letters. I am not alarmed about the 
Jubbulpore affair. I have done what self-penance I had the 
power to do and, therefore, I am content. It is not given to us 
mortals to clamour for reward which lies with God alone. I 
do intend to undertake a tour in company with several front- 
rank leaders as soon as I feel better. First of all, I wish to 
proceed to Kohat. I hope to be ready in eight days. 

When the time comes, I shall myself ask for your help in 
all possible ways. 

I am getting much help from you and yours here. 

Kindly send the money to Jamnalalji or to the Ashram. 

Yours sincerely, 

Mohandas Gandhi 

This was a bad year in Hindu-Muslim relations. There 
were several ugly riots, and then as always Bapu sought 
earnestly for reconciliation. In the autumn he fasted in 
Delhi for twenty-one days, but with little tangible result. 
Much of our correspondence turned on this subject. 
Bapu wrote: ‘We ourselves are to blame for the attacks 
on Hindu women. We have become too effeminate to 
be able to protect our sisters. I propose to write a lot 
on this subject. I have no simple remedy for this evil. 
Making allowance for the usual exaggeration in reports 
of this type, there is enough to make our heads hang 
down in shame.’ 

These events in no wise lessened his concern for 
Muslim welfare, as the next letter shows :— 

Wankaner, 21-2-1925. 

My dear Shriyut Ghanshyamdasji, 

The Muslim University of Aligarh is at present in straitened 
circumstances. I have assured those brothers that I would try to 


8 


I WAS AN OUTCAST 


get money for them. They are trying to raise a certain amount. 

I told them that I would try to get help to the extent of 
Rs. 50,000/- for them. Please give this matter your consideration, 
and if you feel inclined to give the entire amount, or even a part 
of it, please let me know. I am making a deep study of the 
Hindu-Muslim question. My conviction is influencing Hindu 
society, even though I see great difficulties in the way. I am 
touring Kathiawar at present. This journey will be over to-day. 

22nd March, 1925 . 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Your two letters. 

You have taken a load of worry off my mind as regards 
the Muslim University. I would certainly not wish your donation 
to be the cause of dispute among yourself and your brothers. I 
will not disclose your name. 

As regards the property acquired by you in Chhota Nagpur, 
I am opposed to the idea of giving it up just on account of the 
death of some of your employees. There is not much difference 
between landed property and property in the shape of money ; 
and property is often the cause of quarrels, even of murder. A 
way out of your dilemma is to give up the property altogether. 
For this you are not prepared at present. But, as I have said, 
property being the cause of so many quarrels and a temptation 
for so many misdeeds, it is better to give it up, and to act as 
its trustee for such time as would be needed to make one ready 
to relinquish it altogether, the income derived therefrom being 
devoted more to the good of others than to the well-being of 
one’s self. There is another possibility. Has an attempt been 
made to get in touch with the gentleman who is causing trouble ? 
What is this present restlessness due to ?—his own foolishness, 
may be, but his land was not acquired for a song, and even a 
knave would not like to throw away his property. Lo, I have 
started quite a different kind of discussion. 

Is your wife feeling better now ? 

I am leaving Madras on the 24th. 

Yours, 

Mohandas Gandhi 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


26th March, 1925 • 


My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Here is Hakim Saheb’s telegram. Can you send me 
Rs. 25,000/- now? If so, it may be sent either on Hakim 
Saheb’s address or to me in Bombay care of Jamnalalji. If it 
could be credited at Delhi probably some saving might be made 
in commission. I shall be available at the Ashram till April, 
after which I shall be proceeding to Kathiawar again. I have got 
to reach Faridpur on May 2. 

Yours, 

Mohandas Gandhi 


Bapu presented me with a special charkha, and took 
great interest in my spinning. He even went so far as 
to compliment me on the quality of my yam. 

30th March, 1925 - 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

I am in receipt of your letter. 

Your yam is quite good. I hope you will never give up 
the sacred work you have started. As regards your wife, you 
can take a vow that in case she breathes her last you will lead the 
life of a celibate and will not marry again. In case you have the 
inclination and the strength to take this vow, it is better to take it 
before your wife. 

As regards the amount of Rs. 20,000/-, I shall make enqui¬ 
ries from Jamnalalji’s Office. 

Shri Raichandji and myself were quite close to one another. 
I do not concede that he excelled me in the observance of truth 
and non-violence, but I do believe that he surpassed me in the 
knowledge of the sacred scriptures and the retentive capacity of 
his memory. He had self-knowledge and self-confidence from his 
childhood. I know for a fact that he had not finally succeeded 
in breaking loose the bonds that tie one to this world, and he 
himself knew that he had not, but he was progressing fast in 
that direction. I know his views on Buddhadev and others. More 
about him when we meet. My stay in Bengal begins in the month 
of May. 


10 


I WAS AN OUTCAST 


I had appealed to you for Rs. 25,000/- for Aligarh. I have 
also sent you Hakimji’s telegram. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mohandas Gandhi 


Sabarmati Ashram, 

9th April, 1925- 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Your letter. Enclosed please find a receipt I got from 
Jamnalalji’s office. This amount, being your contribution to the 
Deshbandhu Memorial Fund, was included in the cheque sent by 
you. That receipts are issued after deducting draft charges, is 
a thing I am learning for the first time. 

What more can I say about Hindu-Muslim quarrels ? I 
fully understand what is proper for us to do ; but I also know 
that whatever I say at present will be just a cry in the wilderness. 
Who can drive away the bee perched on honey ? Who can 
arrest the momentum of the moth circling around the candle¬ 
stick ? 

I have benefited a great deal by not going to Mussoorie. 
Why did you send a telegram from Delhi about going to Mussoo¬ 
rie after the meeting here ? But who can destroy him whom God 
protects ? 

As regards Finland, I do not know how I should like to act. 
There are equally weighty reasons for and against my going there ; 
and just because I have not yet been able to decide either way, I 
have told my hosts about my conditions, if they accept conditions 
of my presence there I think I must go. 

Let us see what takes place at the All-India Congress Com¬ 
mittee meeting. 

Yours, 

Mohandas 

Needless to say my own experience as an outcast from 
my community greatly increased my sympathies with 
the ‘depressed classes’, and made me most willing to fur¬ 
ther Bapu’s campaign for the Harijans. A good deal 
of our correspondence related to that, but I shall not 
trouble my readers with these details, as the subject of 
the Harijans recurs later. Bapu, by the way, showed 
his native shrewdness in business by suggestions as to 


11 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

where cheques should be paid so as to effect saving on 
commission for collection ! Here let me say that lack 
of personal contact with the Harijans had let orthodox 
Hindus, including such good people as Pandit Malaviya, 
overlook their essential humanity. Except on the natio¬ 
nal issue the correspondence reveals a fundamental clea¬ 
vage of opinion between Bapu and the Pandit. Though 
opposed to the formation of the Swaraj Party and its 
entry into the Legislatures, he was more in sympathy 
with its orthodox leaders, Motilal Nehru and C. R. Das. 

Friday, 7th August, 1925 . 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

I had sent a reply to your letter through Jamnalalji. When 
I got your lengthy letter, I sent a detailed reply and sent it under 
a registered cover to your Solon address. I fail to understand 
why it did not reach you. 

Let me recapitulate what I wrote in it. I had praised your 
action in contributing Rs. 1,00,000/- to the Deshbandhu Memo¬ 
rial Fund, and had prayed for an early payment of the money. 

I had also given in it my reasons for not co-operating with 
respected Malaviyaji and respected Lalaji but had promised a 
deep sense of respect for both. I help Pandit Motilal and the 
Swarajya Party because after all their ideals do resemble mine to 
some extent. There is no question of my helping individuals. 

I wrote many other things in that letter ; but I cannot recall 
all of them. 

I hope both of you are improving in health. You must have 
heard of my fast. That I am gathering more energy will be evi¬ 
dent from the fact that I am writing this to you. I hope to be 
able to undertake physical work in a few days. 

I shall reach Wardha on the 10th and stay there for some 
ten days. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mohandas 

My wife was already afflicted with an illness which proved 
fatal. Bapu’s solicitude, and his suggestions for treat¬ 
ment were continuous. Characteristically he also wrote 
his views upon sex questions :— 


12 


I WAS AN OUTCAST 


Bombay, 13th April, 1925. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Your two letters to hand. You have discontinued giving 
dates in your letters. Please resume the old practice because 
if there are no dates, it is not possible for me to know during 
my tour as to which letter was penned when. 

Hakimji has sailed for Europe. I made enquiries from 
Khawaja Saheb if the money had been received. Please let me 
know when you get any news. On making enquiries from Jamna- 
lalji’s office I learned that they have so far received Rs. 30,0007- 
in all from you. The cashier has duly acknowledged receipt of 
the money which was received in two instalments : Rs. 10,000/- 
on 1-11-24 and Rs. 20,000/- on 5-1-25. 

If the doctors give hope, why fear your wife’s death ? I 
know from experience that it is very difficult to control our de¬ 
sires ; still therein lies our duty. I have great faith in the efficacy 
of Ram Nam in this sinful age. I know of friends who have 
greatly benefited from Ram Nam. Ram Nam is only God’s name. 
Scriptural texts also stand for the same thing. It is better to 
chant a name to which one is accustomed. We live in a sex- 
ridden age, and the problem of self-control is frequently coming 
up. It grieves me much to read journals devoted to contraception. 
I find many writers holding the view that it is our duty to indulge 
in sex. In such an atmosphere my support to the doctrine of 
self-restraint must seem very queer. How can I forget my own 
experience ? There are means of attaining the state of absolute 
detachment and the name of Rajaram is one of them. Chanting 
Ram Nam in the morning and praying to Him to bless one with 
the state of absolute detachment, certainly bring His blessing—to 
some today and to others tomorrow. Let there be God’s image¬ 
less image constantly present before our mind. Practice will 
make this possible. 

I shall be reaching Bengal on Prathma, leaving Calcutta for 
Faridpur the same day. 

Yours sincerely, 

Bandemataram from Mohandas 

The following letter reflects Bapu’s practical mind in 
striving for the ideal of cow-protection. 


13 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, Patna, 1st July , 2925- 

Your letter. I do not intend to trouble you much about 
Lohani just now. 

Jamnalalji was telling me that the amount of Rs. 25,000/- 
meant for the Muslim University was to be taken from the 
Rs. 60,000/- promised by you at Juhu. And I was planning to 
spend Rs. 60,000/- on other things. But if what you meant was 
in fact not what I thought you meant, I have nothing to say. 

There is another thing. You know my views on cow-protec¬ 
tion. Shri Madhusudandas owns a tannery at Cuttack which he 
has developed into a limited company. I feel like acquiring a 
majority of its shares with a view to controlling it for public 
benefit in the interest of cow-protection. The tannery’s liabili¬ 
ties amount to Rs. 1,20,000/-. It is necessary to rescue it from 
this dead-weight. The tannery uses only carcass hides, but 
hides of specially killed patalgho are also used. In case it 
is decided to take over the tannery, three conditions should 
be insisted on :— 

1. Only hides of dead animals will be taken; 

2. The practice of killing patalgho [a four-legged reptile] 
for the sake of its hide must be discontinued; 

3. The idea of purchasing yarn must be given up and profits 
devoted to expansion of the tannery. 

I would like you to take over the tannery provided it is 
available on these terms ; I would also like you to undertake its 
management. If that is not practicable, I shall find out somebody 
who can manage it. The tannery owns a few acres of land which 
I have seen myself. Shri Madhusudandas has spent quite a 
considerable amount on it from his own pocket. 

Then there is a third proposition. The A.-I. Spinners’ Asscn. 
and you can co-operate in this work. I would like you to donate 
a handsome amount to A.-I. Deshbandhu Memorial Fund. 

Jamnalalji will have a detailed talk with you on all these 
three schemes, provided he happens to meet you at Delhi. 

Is your wife feeling better ? 

I shall be in Bihar till the 15th. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mohandas Gandhi 

I don’t remember what I wrote to deserve the reproach 
in the following letters :— 


14 


I WAS AN OUTCAST 


November, 1925 . 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Your letter. 

As for my article 1 am sure I have saved Ba * from a wrong. 
Ba also seems to take things in this light; otherwise, she could not 
have moved about with me with such a light heart. I have rescued 
Chhaganlal and Ba from several baseless accusations. I doubt 
if anybody else in our society has tested to the extent I have 
the sweet joy of a public confession of one’s own guilt. My only 
surprise is that you have been unable to appreciate this. 


* His wife. 

The reader will have observed frequent references by 
Bapu to financial matters in his letters. I was doing my 
best to support him with money—the commodity which 
he most lacked—in his struggle to help the depressed 
classes. These references will continue to appear in 
his letters; they indicate his acute and practical compe¬ 
tence in business matters. 


Sabarmati, 

3rd January, 1926. 


My dear Rameshwardasji, 

Your letter. Jamnalalji is here at present. He informs me 
that his office has received Rs. 10,000/-. I shall utilise this 
money in the service of the depressed classes. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mohandas Gandhi 


I was glad to learn that you are keeping quite fit. 

The Hindu-Muslim problem was a burning question. 

Ashram, Sabarmati, 
Friday, 16-4-26. 

My dear Shri Ghanshyamdas, 

Your letter and a cheque for Rs. 26,000/- have arrived. 
You have asked several questions relating to the Hindu-Muslim 
problems, to which I am replying, but it is not for the press. 
• As I have already told you, at present my voice does not count 


15 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


with the Hindu public, or at least with that section of it which 
takes part in such disturbances. Therefore, what I say has the 
opposite effect. Thus my duty lies only in holding my peace. 

1. If the Government has banned processions and it is 
necessary to take out a procession in some religious celebration, 

I would consider it my duty to take out the procession in spite 
of the ban. But before doing so I should entreat the Muslims to 
be considerate. If this fails to move them, I would take out the 
procession but, while doing so, would put up with all the ham¬ 
mering Muslims give me. If I have not the capacity to observe 
non-violence to such an extent, I would take out a procession with 
full preparations. 

2. I would not dismiss Muslim syces etc., merely because of 
their being Muslim. At the same time, I would not keep a Muslim 
if he does not do his duty loyally or who is insolent to me. I do 
not believe that the Muslims are more ungrateful than others ; 
the only thing that I have seen is that they are comparatively more 
quarrelsome. It appears to me very unworthy to leave a Muslim 
simply because he is a Muslim. 

3. If a Hindu does not like, or is not equipped for, the 
ways of peace he should acquire the strength needed in fighting. 

4. If the Government favours the Muslims, this should not 
worry the Hindus. Let them not care for the Government, let 
them not cringe, but learn to rely on their strength. When the 
average Hindu will have acquired this much courage, the Govern¬ 
ment will become neutral and the Muslim will stop leaning on it. 
Taking help from the Government neither contributes to the 
performance of duty, nor goes to make one brave. I would 
advise you to take a detached view of such things, and to act 
accordingly. Therein lies the good of the Hindu community, 
and service to the Hindu religion. This is my lifelong—35 years 
old—experience. I was very much pleased with the calm, col¬ 
lected manner in which you worked during the riots. Now you 
should do all that you have to do with the same amount of 
calmness. If my reply is not quite clear on any point, you can 
ask again. 

I would like to have a portion of the loan, promised by 
you for the Spinners’ Association, on the stocks lying in Bombay. 
If you like you can take possession of one of these godowns, in 
which stocks sufficient to cover the amount of the loan will be ‘ 



16 


I WAS AN OUTCAST 


kept-—even larger stocks can be kept there because that will 
save us the rent of a godown, provided you agree. Things 
should, however, be i so arranged that it would be possible for 
us to take out that extra stock whenever we desire. Stock kept 
outside the security enjoyed by the Spinners’ Association is 
bound to show a loss ; therefore, some sort of facility should be 
provided for it. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mohandas 

Ashram, Sabarmati, 

Sunday, 23-5-26. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

Your letter duly reached me. I have sent Jamnalalji a copy 
of your letter containing a promise to advance a loan for Khadi. 

I was simply taken aback about the Sabarmati Agreement. 
Even now I have not been able to understand all this. I can 
understand all about the Hindu-Muslim question, but have been 
reduced to a state of helplessness. I am still optimistic, simply 
because I have not yet lost faith in myself. But this much is 
quite clear to me, that the way in which the Hindu religion is being 
sought to be protected is not the way to ensure its protection. 
But I have decided to have complete faith in the adage ‘God is 
the only strength of the weak.’ And this has made me quite 
carefree. 

Yours sincerely., 
Mohandas 

The next letter touches upon his differences with Malavi- 
yaji—in this case about my entering actively into 
politics. 

Ashram, Sabarmati, 
Tuesday, 8-6-26 . 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

I am in receipt of your letter. Khadi Pratisthan has so far 
received nearly Rs. 70,000/- through the Spinners’ Association. 
So far as I can recollect, Rs. 35,000/- have been given to another 
Ashram, and Rs. 6,000/- to Prabartak Sangh. Some smaller 
amounts have also been given. Put together, the figure will be 
approximately Rs. 1,25,000/-. More money will be given in 

17 


2 


JN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


Bengal. I know the needs of Khadi Pratisthan are great. Satish 
Babu wishes to expand the scope of his undertaking a great deal, 
which I like very much myself. But as it is, there is very little 
money at the disposal of the Spinners’ Association. Therefore,, 
while the Spinners’ Association will do its best according to its 
capacity, I would request you to give Satish Babu as much as 
you can. 

What can I write about your entry to the Council? I have 
a fundamental difference of opinion with Malaviyaji on this sub¬ 
ject. The only thing I can say is that if you are convinced that 
you would be of service to the people by going there you must 
go. It is not possible to conceive of opposing the Swaraj Party 
and gaining political experience at the same time. If you are 
labopring under the belief that you have made a promise before 
me to keep away from the legislatures, you have got to disabuse 
your mind of it. No such restraint can be definitely held to 
have been imposed. You should, therefore, consider yourself 
free from any such commitment and decide the question of Coun¬ 
cil entry purely from the point of view of service to the people. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mohandas 

The Ashram, 
25-7-26. 

Dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

I enclose herewith a statement that should have been posted 
with the letter that was sent you the other day. 

As regards your previous letter about Khadi Pratisthan Bapu 
said there was nothing in it which called for any special remark. 
He agrees with you that business should not be mixed up with 
philanthropy and that the only form in which you could help 
the Pratisthan was the loan of Rs. 30,000/- repayable in Jan. ’27. 

Yours sincerely, 

Mahadev Desai 

Bapu strongly approved my action in declining a knight¬ 
hood but equally strongly disapproved of my action in 
standing for the Legislature (I was a member of the 1927 
Assembly, but later took his advice and abandoned it). 
Regarding the knighthood he wrote: ‘If you have to 
decline a title, it is not necessary either to treat the 


18 


I WAS AN OUTCAST 


Government as your enemy or to consider titles as some¬ 
thing evil, though I do regard them as evil, placed as we 
are.’ 

At first he was not enthusiastic about my visiting 
Europe in 1927. But as will be seen, he showed the 
greatest interest in my trip when it was! decided upon. 


19 


CHAPTER II 

LALA LAJPAT RAI 

Among my earliest mentors were Pandit Madan Mohan 
Malaviya and Liala Lajpat Rai. Malaviyaji was a man 
of great learning and completely devoted to the country, 
but his views were extremely orthodox on all social 
matters. Lala Lajpat Rai on the other hand was not 
orthodox in his outlook, but was very impulsive and 
short-tempered, and he preceded Gandhiji in rousing my 
interest in the ‘untouchables’. ‘Harijan’ and ‘scheduled 
castes’ were then unknown words. Writing to me on 
December 30, 1923, he said :— 

I have been very anxious to meet you ever since I came out 
of jail. My illness however prevented me from coming to Calcutta, 
and I had not the courage to ask one of you to come over to see 
me. I wish to discuss with you the problem of Hindu Unity and 
how to reclaim the Hindu untouchables. I am afraid the Hindus 
and the various Hindu organisations make much noise but do 
very little substantial work. There are some who are fond of 
collecting funds for posterity, but are not interested in using 
them to the best advantage at the present time. There are others 
again who take too many schemes in hand, make all schemes very 
big and take too much time to come to decisions. To this latter 
class belongs our revered leader Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya. 

I love him, I respect him, but what I regret in him is his dilatori¬ 
ness in coming to decisions and in taking action. I am of the 
opinion that the present is the time for quick decisions and prompt 
action if we want the Hindu Community to be saved from ambi¬ 
tious and enterprising enemies, the most important problem is 
how to achieve unity and how to save our depressed classes. Any 
delay in this latter item will be suicidal. Malaviyaji evidently 
thinks that the Hindu University will save us, and he is devoting 
all the money and all the time for the University. Now his work 
in connection with the University is glorious, and we may well 
be proud of him and his work. But further extensions of it 
can wait. 


20 



LALA LAJPAT RAI 


He went on to outline an organisation for which he 
enlisted my support. He and Pandit Malaviya were also 
responsible for my brief incursion into politics as M.L.A. 
for Banaras and Gorakhpur and a member of their 

‘Responsivist’ party. _ 

By 1927 we knew each other much better, and Lala 
Lajpat Rai decided to give me ‘a good talking-to.’ Writing 
to me when we were both in London in July he said:-— 

I want to tell you quite candidly and frankly what I think 
of you. You see I had never known you so intimately as I 
have during the time we were together on the steamer and 
at Geneva. There are some qualities in you which I admire 
immensely, but there are some others which I would like to change. 
My interest in you is that of a father who wants his son to be 
greater, bigger and better than himself. You have in you the 
makings of a great leader and all the qualities of a really generous 
one provided you change your manners a little. Your present 
manners give an impression of a little curtness and abruptness 
which might induce some people (who do not know you well) to 
run away with the idea that you are a conceited man. The best 
man to learn manners from is Mahatma Gandhi. His manners 
come very near perfection ; though there is nothing perfect in 
this world. Great as he is, greatest of us all, he is very particular 
in his behaviour towards his friends and co-workers. You can 
never charge him with neglect or inattention or incivility. He may 
differ from you but he gives you a full hearing and is never 
abrupt in announcing his decisions. He is firm ; no one can 
charge him with weakness, but he never allows his firmness to 
be misunderstood for haughtiness. He has free and full discus¬ 
sions even with those who are not his equals in any sense of 
the term. You are still young and inexperienced ; you possess a 
good intellect and a very ready mind. You must pardon me for 
saying that as a political leader, which you must develop into 
in the course of time, you would require a different kind of 
equipment, both mental and that of manners from the one which 
went to make you a successful businessman. 

I am in the evening of my life. Gandhiji and Malaviya 
are already dying by inches. May they live long. There are 


21 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

not many men among the Hindus on whom we could desire the 
mantle of leadership to fall. Among the intellectuals, I place my 
hopes in Jayakar and among businessmen on you. Moreover 
Jayakar belongs to Bombay. We want a reliable Hindu leader 
who would inspire love and confidence among his colleagues and 
co-workers to lead the Hindus of North India. There is none 
at present on whom I could lay my finger. I have my hopes in 
you and that is the reason why I have taken the liberty of writing 
this letter to you. My love and patriotism have tempted me to 
do so. Please pardon me if you think I am unnecessarily meddle¬ 
some and presumptuous. In that case drop the letter into the 
waste-paper basket and never think of it again. 

* * * 

May God bless you is the earnest prayer of 

Your sincere well-wisher, 
La j pat Rai 

I don’t know how far I was impressed with this letter, 
but I knew my own limitations and had no ambition of 
becoming a deader’. So I took his advice as a young 
man takes advice from all elderly persons. 

He followed that up with a rebuke from Paris:— 

Paris, 6th July, 1927. 

I am still in Paris. You will pardon me for frankly telling 
you that I was a bit hurt by your not coming to see me before 
my departure from London. In my judgment you did not act 
rightly in absenting yourself from Sir Shadi Lai’s dinner and 
Mr. Patel’s reception. You need not have eaten but you should 
have come. It is so important to be civil and courteous and 
to impress people favourably. You are a rich man, and that is 
all the more reason for your observing the formal courtesies of 
life. I wish that people should learn to love you for your virtues 
other than those connected with your riches. I think you should 
change a little and follow your two worshipful leaders (Gandhiji 
and Malaviyaji) in being considerate even in small matters. 

I am going to Vichy either tomorrow or the day after. I 
am very grateful for the trip and shall write to you again from 
Vichy. I am trying to get my teeth examined here. London is 


22 


LALA LAJPAT RAI 


so frightfully expensive in these things that I reserved further 
medical examination for Paris. 

Yours sincerely, 
Lajpat Rai 

Even after this reproach I developed no great attraction 
for parties and dinners ! 

Hotel Radio, Vichy, 9-7-27. 

My dear G.D., 

Thanks for your letter which I received this morning. I 
understand your point of view and I never expected you to come 
to the station to see me off. All I expected was that you would 
call at the club or even on the telephone to say good-bye to me. 
I think such small courtesies are good even among friends and 
members of the same family. They help in keeping relations 
sweet. 

I think you should have attended both Sir Shadi Lai’s dinner 
and Mr. Patel’s reception. Your going to Glasgow is not so 
important in my judgment. At the students’ reception I wanted 
the students to see you ; at the dinner I wanted the Sikhs to 
do so. However the matter is closed. I am writing all this 
because I am very much interested in you, and I am glad you 
take a sweet view of my fault-finding. 

I reached this place yesterday. It is raining today, but 
from what I have seen of Vichy in about an hour, it is a very 
popular health resort. Virtually there are thousands of visitors, 
and provision has been made for every comfort both in the 
hotels and the city. There is a covered walk all round the principal 
streets which protects you from rain and sun. 

The hotel where I am staying is a good one. Of course I 
am trying, as usual, to spend as little as is consistent with ordinary 
comforts. I have taken a room without a bathroom to myself 
at £1-3-0. A room with bath costs 225 francs, i.e. about 2 guineas. 
But my room opens on a nice view and contains a cabinet in 
which hot and cold running water can be had day and night. I 
suffered a great deal from insomnia at Paris. I shall write to you 
again. 

Yours sincerely, 
Lajpat Rai 


23 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

From Vichy he wrote again on our national charac¬ 
teristics :— 

Sunday, 17th July, 1927. 

Were you present in the House of Commons on the day of 
the Indian Debate ? Of course much nonsense was talked, but I 
think there was a substratum of truth in one part of the Under 
Secretary’s speech where he said that the Indian mentality was a 
handicap in the material progress of the Indians. Too much 
emphasis on the world hereafter and the lack of an assertive 
fighting mentality is a great hindrance to secular progress. I am 
more and more convinced that our chief work is to change the 
mentality of our people and make them more ambitious and aggres¬ 
sive or if not aggressive, at least assertive. 

I propose to leave this place on the 29th or 30th, take a 
trip to Nice and Monte Carlo, and then sail on the 5th of August. 
I do not know if you are going or will have time to go to Germany. 

I have a mind to give up excessive travelling and settle 
down in one place, Lahore or Delhi or Benares, and engage 
myself in literary work of a more permanent utility. 

There was a touching little postscript:— 

PS.—Please excuse me for having disfigured a part of the 
letter. It contained nothing important but a foolish request for 
certain articles of luxury, which on better thought I have omitted. 

The activities of the Calcutta ‘European’ Association 
in London alarmed him:— 

21-7-27. 

My dear G.D., 

I presume you have read the proceedings of a meeting of 
Englishmen from India in London, reported in The Times of the 
20th on page 18. You will now see what friend Colonel Crawford 
is doing. It is absolutely necessary for you to seriously start a 
counter-move. Otherwise, purely Indian interests in trade and 
industries will never come to the forefront. I am convinced that 
this is no time for a man of your views and patriotism to be 
absent from India. Every day is vital. Now that you have 
entered politics, you cannot neglect political issues. Of course 
your business interests are very important because they supply 
the sinews of war, but I am inclined to think that the next 


24 


LALA LAJPAT RAI 


six months are very important for India in general and Indian 
trade and industries in particular. The English are drawing some 
Indians into their net and starting a powerful organisation and a 
strong agitation. It is the duty of every Indian to counteract 
such a move and I think you are in a position to do a great deal. 
It is not your money I am thinking of, but your influence among 
Indian businessmen. The more I think of it, the more I am 
convinced that you should return to the Assembly and use the 
Simla Session for concerted action. It is difficult to gather so 
many leading men otherwise. A letter from my grandson inform¬ 
ed me that Malaviyaji has permitted you to stay away. I do 
not know what that means. I am, however, of a different opinion. 
Events are developing fast and this is no time to stay out. I am 
already regretting that I came away. 

Yours sincerely, 
Lajpat Rai 

PS.—It has just struck me to write to you about our living 
at Simla. I think it will be very useful if we could stay near 
each other. I have already written to L. Mohan Lai for the 
same rooms I occupied last year, but his house is very far off 
and it is very difficult to go about from there. I think your 
house would be a central place for meetings. If you are writing 
to Simla, please do reserve three rooms with one or two separate 
bathrooms for me. 

This led him to a fierce attack on religion in a letter 
from London the same month. The European nations 
were great not because they followed Christ but because 
they did not follow him ! We had too many saints in 
India and Gandhian austerity was a mistake. 

Very sensitive and ‘touchy’, he was inclined to sus¬ 
pect intrigue and enmity where it may not have existed. 
He took a violent dislike to Vithalbai Patel, speaker of 
the Assembly, and wrote a painfully depressing account 
of affairs, which did not help his plan for turning me 
into a politician, but instead increased my anxiety to be 
rid of politics. The most remarkable feature of this 
letter, however, is that it reveals that Lajpat Rai, who 
eventually lost his life in boycotting the Simon Commis- 


25 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


sion, was originally strongly opposed to this course, and 
only did so eventually out of loyalty to others. 

2, Court Street, Lahore, 
26-9-27. 


My dear G.D., 

Your telegram in reply to mine to hand. I am afraid I 
have no intention at present of going to the Calcutta side though 
I am very anxious to see you at an early date. My reasons are 
twofold 

1st. I am anxious to discuss the question of the Reserve Bank 
with you. 

2ndly. I am also anxious to discuss with you the future of 
our Party. 

On both these matters I have differed from our revered 
leader Malaviyaji. During the last session we have been working 
rather at cross purposes. Patel has been playing the ‘Narad Muni’. 
On his return he found, so he told me himself, that the Viceroy 
was angry with him for having put forward rather revolutionary 
plans before the British statesmen without consulting him in the 
matter. 

He wanted us, therefore, to announce that we would boycott 
the Royal Commission if it would not have a majority of Indians 
on it. I flatly refused to do so. Then he played on Malaviyaji 
and has done his level best to create a gulf between me and him. 
So much so that one day I placed my resignation before the party 
and after I had withdrawn it, Malaviyaji sent it to me in writing. 
I know for a fact that Patel and Srinivas Iyengar gave him that 
advice at Patel’s house. Unfortunately Malaviyaji had been seeing 
Patel too often during this session and he could not see through 
his wily plans. Then Patel sent for Jayakar and proposed to him 
that we should dissolve our party and join the Congress Party with 
Motilal as its leader, myself and S. Iyengar as deputies and Jayakar 
as its Secretary. Quite unnecessarily, he told Jayakar that it 
was necessary to do so in order to strengthen the hands of Motilal 
in England. Jayakar frankly referred him to me and said that as 
the leader of the party I was the person to be spoken to. Patel 
then sent for me and told me that he wanted that amalgamation 
to take place that very week. I told him that I had no time to 


26 


LALA LAJPAT RAI 


consult my party that week, but that I would do so in the coming 
week. He said, the thing must be accomplished before we left 
Simla. I then called a meeting of the party which unanimously 
resolved not to follow his advice unless and until they knew 
Motilal’s views, and unless they could get a guarantee that nothing 
would happen to force them to leave the Congress party again. 

The Congress Party itself is now divided into several factions, 
and Jayakar told me that several members were prepared to join 
our ranks. Malaviyaji had evidently made some kind of promise 
to Patel. Patel has thus been working to destroy our Party. In 
the last session at Delhi he was against Jayakar and puffed me up 
at his cost. This session he has been patronising and puffing 
Jayakar in order to humiliate and insult me with a view to creating 
a split in our Party. 

Even the Congress Party is thoroughly disgusted with him. 
Jayakar of course is entirely with us and has seen through his 
game. But Malaviyaji has not. I think I am to blame in this 
matter also, as I lived so far away from Malaviyaji and gave him 
opportunities to fall into the snares of Patel. This is a matter on 
which I wish to talk to you in detail, because on this depends the 
whole of our future political work. 

About the Reserve Bank too, it has been Patel’s plan to throw 
the whole responsibility of its failure on Malaviyaji. The latter 
has not seen through his wily designs. He has been putting up 
the Congress Party and its leader to compromise with the Govern¬ 
ment while on the other hand he was stiffening Malaviyaji’s back 
to oppose the Government tooth and nail. 

His plan was throughout to put him (i.e. M.) in the wrong 
both with the Government and the Party. 

For these reasons I would like you to come to Lahore for a 
day or two. I would like you to address a public meeting at 
Lahore and another at Amritsar on your experiences in Europe. 
It is absolutely necessary for you to become an All-India Man. 
I have my eyes on you and Jayakar for the future leadership of 
the Hindus in politics, and I wish you to address some public 
meetings in all provinces. When going to Benares, can’t you 
come to Lahore for a day? Can’t you come to preside over some 
depressed classes conference which we might arrange for you? 
Once you reach Calcutta, you won’t be able to leave it for some 
time. 


27 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

I want also to start work on the plan we made on the trip 
from Paris to Deauville about the Hindu volunteer movement. 

All these matters require discussion. If you find it impos¬ 
sible to come to Lahore, then I may see you at Delhi, but meet 
we must , before you proceed to Calcutta. I cannot come either 
to Benares or to Calcutta. I propose to stick to Lahore for 
October and November, and write a book in reply to Miss Mayo’s 
Mother India . I rely upon you to help me in these tangles. 

You may see Jayakar and discuss matters with him also. 
In the meantime I am going to have one of the Bungalows re¬ 
served for me and another for Malaviyaji, so that we may be 
near enough to meet and consult each other more frequently. 
Please do write to me in full about your plans. 

Are you not going to mature your plan for a new Bank? 
I think this is the time to do it. With love. 

Yours sincerely, 
Lajpat Rai 

I fear I was receding more and more from the prospects 
of becoming an ‘All-India man’ and my letter to him on 
September 30 in which I tried to pour oil on these 
troubled waters may not have enhanced my reputation 
in his eyes. This is what I wrote. 

I shall be going to Benares on Sunday. Please do not worry 
about our Party. I think possibly that after the ‘cool heat’ of 
Simla the members of our Party, after coming to the plains, will 
find themselves in a cooler atmosphere and I am sure before we 
re-assemble at Delhi we shall find ourselves in a very good posi¬ 
tion. The greatest advantage of our Party is that it has the best 
of all the sensible men and therefore I do not anticipate much 
difficulty. 

I read the' deliberations of the Unity Conference held at 
Simla and my personal opinion is that whether other fanatic 
Hindus agree or not, we must recognise freedom of religion; the 
slaughter of cows on the one hand, and playing of music or 
slaughter of pigs on the other. If we want to save cows we must 
depend on the goodwill of the other religionists. I am sure that 
we cannot reduce the number of the slaughter of cows by un¬ 
necessarily antagonising Mohammedans, although I would not 


28 


LALA LAJPAT RAI 


even mind fighting against them if thereby we could do any good 
to ourselves. 

The Secretary of the Khilafat Committee may have issued a 
misleading statement as you call it, but I cannot help feeling that 
we have been most unreasonable in asking for freedom of music 
while disallowing them freedom in observing their own religious 
ceremonies. I shall have a discussion with Panditji when I go to 
Benares and hope to come to see you at Delhi in November or 
December. 

Please let me know if you have framed any detailed scheme 
for the training of the Scouts, and if you have, please send me a 
copy of the same. 

He wrote back that in principle he was in full agree¬ 
ment about cow-slaughter but that this mutual recogni¬ 
tion was not practical politics without active propaganda 
as ‘the Hindu community will not listen to any such pro¬ 
posals.’ In the meantime we should fall back on the 
resolution of the Delhi Unity Conference. He asked 
for assistance in re-publishing his books Young India 
and England's Debt to India. These were originally 
published in America but had been banned in India. 
This prohibition had now been withdrawn. Meantime 
he was writing a reply to Miss Mayo’s Mother India . 

A man of moods, he was subject to fits of intense de¬ 
pression. His next letter, from Lahore on October 27, was 
full of criticism of Pandit Malaviya:—‘I regret having 
ever joined him in forming this Party.’ ‘Patel’s conduct 
during the whole of the session has been very perfidious. 
While he gave one kind of advice to Srinivasa Iyengar, 
he gave another kind of advice to Malaviyaji.’ He now 
wished that Pandit Malaviya would ‘devote himself ex¬ 
clusively to the University affairs which are in a hopeless 
condition.’ He begged me to come to Delhi. ‘The fact 
is that I am very much upset and I want somebody to 
whom I can open my heart fully and unreservedly.’ 

His religious scepticism plunged him into the very 
slough of despond. From Poona on July 12, 1928, he 


29 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


poured out what he called a lava of pessimism’. It fills 
five large type-written pages, and is one of the most 
heart-rending documents I have ever read. A few sen¬ 
tences from it will give a key to its tragic content: 

I have lost faith in everything—in myself, in God, in 
Humanity, in life, in the world . . . Everything seems to be epheme¬ 
ral and the outcome of human vanity. All my life I have fought 
and struggled against this doctrine. I have thundered from 
hundreds of platforms that the doctrine which says ‘this world is 
false, unreal and a delusion’ is false. .. Life is real, life is earnest 
—seems to me to be nothing more than the cry of unconscious 
vanity. What is there in life which is real and which one should 
take in earnest? . . . How can I believe in a God who is said to be 
just and benevolent, all-mighty and omniscient, who rules over 
this absurd world? 

Friendship, love of relatives even, had left him. He no 
longer cared for them nor they for him. 

The short and long of it is that I have lost all faith in God 
or in religion ... I know the habit of too much analysis, or tearing 
things into pieces, is bad. It does not lead to pleasantness. Yet 
I often find myself in a hyper-critical mood. No one comes up 
to my ideals. I admire Gandhiji,.I admire Malaviyaji, but I often 
myself indulge in bitter criticism of them. Public life, public 
activities, public engagements are no longer alluring; they do not 
attract me; they do not please me, yet I find I cannot five without 
them. Oh ! What am I to do ? I am miserable, I am lonely, I 
am unhappy, yet I hug my miserableness, my loneliness and my 
unhappiness. I do want to get rid of this state of mind, but I 
don’t know how. 

Such relief as his tortured soul found was always in 
action. In November he wrote from Lahore. T am now 
quite well and am thinking of taking a pleasure-health 
trip either by sea or by a motor tour when coming to 
Calcutta in December next, where I hope to meet you.’ 

A few months later he died a martyr’s death. His con¬ 
tribution to the struggle for national freedom was great 
and so was his contribution to social reforms. But with 


30 


LALA LAJPAT RAI 


the advent of Gandhism perhaps he found it difficult to 
adjust himself to the changing conditions. In any case, 
with all his faults he was undoubtedly a great man, whose 
contribution to the freedom movement can never be 
overestimated. 


31 




CHAPTER III 

OFF TO LONDON 

Here is the programme that Gandhiji laid down for me 
in a letter dated Monday, 16th March, 1927:— 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

In my opinion the following rules of conduct must be of¬ 
fered to safeguard one’s health while staying in Europe : 

1. We should not take much diet to which we are not ac¬ 
customed. 

2. They eat six to seven times in Europe, but you must not 
eat more than three times. Do not get accustomed to taking 
chocolate and such like things during intervals. 

3. They eat even at 1 o’clock at night. But we must not 
eat anything after 8 o’clock. When visiting people and places, 
we are expected to take tea, etc. This is entirely wrong. 

4. One should go out for a walk every day and cover a dis¬ 
tance of at least six miles. One should be accustomed to walk 
both morning and evening. 

5. You should wear only a limited amount of clothing, the 
secret being that one must not feel cold. Walking ensures against 
cold. 

6. It is not at all necessary to don European dress. One 
should try to know the poor people of Europe; for this, walking 
on foot is necessary. When there is time at your disposal, going 
on foot is preferable. 

7. Do not persuade yourself for a moment that since you 
have come to Europe you have got to do something. Do only 
what natural and spontaneous effort can accomplish. 

8. It is my view that your sojourn in Europe will result in 
at least one good thing—you can certainly build up your body. 

9. May God save you from mental debauchery; very few 
Indians escape it. While their way of living is natural to people 
there, it only helps to intoxicate us. 

10. The practice of reading the Gita and the Ramayana 
must in no case be given up. If you do not practise it already, 
the sooner you begin it the better. 

I am sure you did not look forward to advice in such minute 


32 


OFF TO LONDON 


detail. This I am giving because I have great faith in the good¬ 
ness of yourself and your brothers. The number of rich people 
who possess your goodness and humility is very small indeed. I 
want manifold increase in it, and I want to put it to use in the 
service of the nation. I have no faith in the principle of an eye 
for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Therefore, wherever I see 
purity, truth and non-violence even in the smallest degree, I start 
collecting the treasure with a care of a miser, and this in itself is 
my reward inasmuch as it makes me happy. 

You can ask for any further advice at Bombay on 23/24, 
Kolhapur 25/26, Belgaum 27/4 April, Madras 5/12. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mohandas 

At this time I was anxious that Gandhiji should visit 
Europe and make personal contacts. I have no copy 
of my letter, but he replied as follows:— 

27th March , 1927. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

I am in receipt of your letter. I have not yet made up my 
mind about going to Europe. I do not like to go. I do wish to 
meet Romain Rolland, but I am waiting for his letter on the sub¬ 
ject. I have already received a letter, but it does not help me 
in making up my mind about going. If at all I decide to go, 
it will be only in the month of May, and I shall be back in Octo¬ 
ber. Even if I can stay with you at Mussoorie for a few days 
only, I shall try. I want to stay here till April 13. Please let 
me know your views on what I have written on the question of 
boycott of foreign cloth. 

Do let me have detailed information about your health. I 
hope now you are able to take food. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mohandas 

His next letter contained more advice about London :— 

Nandi Fort, 26th May , 1927 . 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Jamnalalji has been here for the last two days. He has 
given me your message. I need not write anything more than 

33 


3 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

what I have written. Regarding your presentation to the King 
I think you should not try for it. If the Secretary of State for 
India or the Prime Minister desires it, then you should not refuse. 
So far as I know, politics cannot be discussed with the King. Only 
formal courtesies are exchanged. But you must meet the minis¬ 
ters and you can talk to them about whatever you like. You 
must make a very close study of conditions in jails there, and, along 
with somebody who knows you, you must visit the slum districts 
of London and observe how the poor live there. On Saturday 
evenings you should once or twice stand outside the bars in rich 
and poor districts and watch their life. 

My health is improving day by day. I wrote to Malaviyaji 
many days ago. I do not expect a reply because he is not in the 
habit of replying to letters. Telegrams to him are without fail 
answered by telegrams. 

I shall write to you again. I hope you are keeping good 
health. 

Yours, 

Mohandas 

A few days later he wrote again in Hindi and discussed 
his own health as well as that of Pandit Malaviya, and 
launched into an interesting philosophical disquisition on 
life and death. I append a translation :— 

Nandi Hills, 31st May, 1927 • 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

I have your letter. 

As I dictate this, Mahadev reminds me that you have re¬ 
quested me through Jamnalalji to write to you in English. But 
as I shall not write anything which needs to be shown to others, 
I continue to dictate this letter in Hindi. 

I have received your letter written from the steamer. I 
have already written to you two letters before this at your Geneva 
address. I hope you have received them by now. My health 
is improving. I have kept writing to Malaviyaji. Just as I 
predicted I received his long telegram this week. Therein he 
informs me that though his health is good he is weak. At present 
he is at Bombay. To say about me that I do not take proper 
care of my health is, I think, not correct. I do take as much 
care of my health as I deem necessary for its preservation. 


34 




OFF TO LONDON 


Malaviyaji does not do so. I often wrote this to him, but even 
after making a promise to take a rest, he did not keep it. He has 
great faith in Ayurvedic treatment and believes that he keeps, and 
can keep, well by taking pills and powders from vaidyas, and his 
self-confidence is so great that despite his weakness and illness, 
he is resolved to live up to 75. May God make his resolution 
good. Who can press him too much? I have written to him in 
as strong language as possible couched with humour and consis¬ 
tently with courtesy. The truth is that a man’s reason follows his 
activities. .There is little free scope for human efforts in such 
matters. One’s duty is to strive and one must perform it; but for 
one and all a time comes when all efforts become futile and, for¬ 
tunately and in the interest of conservation of human efforts, God 
has not given anyone the knowledge of the last moment. Then 
why should we worry for this inevitable thing? The affairs of 
the country depend upon neither Malaviyaji, nor Lalaji [i.e. Lala 
Lajpat Rai], nor me. All are mere instruments and, as for myself, 
I believe that a good man’s work really begins after his death. 
Shakespeare is not right in saying: 

The evil that men do lives after them ; 

The good is oft interred with their bones. 

Evil is never so long-lived. Rama is alive and we purify 
ourselves by repeating his name. Ravana is gone, and gone as 
also with him are his evils. Even a wicked man does not remember 
Ravana. No one knows the real Rama of his age. The poet 
has told us that in his own age he, too, was subjected to accusa¬ 
tions. But all the imperfections of Rama were burnt with his 
body and we to-day worship him only as a divine being; and cer¬ 
tainly the extent of Ramrajya was not so great when he was 
physically alive as it is now. 

I do not write this as a highly philosophical statement, or for 
pacificatory consolation. But I want to say emphatically that 
we should not at all grieve over the death of one whom we con¬ 
sider a saintly man; also that we should have a firm faith that it 
is only after his death that his true work commences, or rather 
begins to bear fruit. What were considered to be his great 
achievements during his lifetime would pale into insignificance 
before the future ones. Of course, it is our duty to follow, up 
to the extent of our capacity, the good steps of those whom we 
respect as saints. 


35 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

I have to make a suggestion for your health. If you have 
no faith, as indeed you should not, in allopathy, you may go and 
see the institutions of Louis Kuhne and Just in Germany. Lhe 
treatment of patients there consists of open air and water, and 
hundreds of people have availed themselves of those institutions. 
You may also contact the two vegetarian societies at London and 
Manchester respectively. In these societies there are always 
some sober, courteous and balanced people; but you will also 
come across some stupid and vain persons. 

Yours, 

Mohandas 

The next letter was written in English little more than a 
week later: 

‘Kumara Park’, 
Bangalore, 9th June, 1927. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

This is the fourth letter I am writing to you after your 
departure from Bombay. Jamnalalji has sent me your cable¬ 
gram. Hence this letter in English. I must not yet try to write 
letters myself. In order to conserve my energy, therefore, I am 
dictating most of my correspondence, whether in English, Hindi 
or Gujrati. 

Malaviyaji is with me to-day. He is on his way to Ooty to 
recoup himself. He came this morning and was to have left this 
evening; but on my telling him that the day after tomorrow is 
the Mysore Maharaja’s birthday and suggesting that he should 
go to Mysore to give his blessings before proceeding to Ooty, 
he has sent a telegram to the Dewan. He has suspended his 
journey forward and will probably leave for Mysore tomorrow. 
Of course, I have been in regular correspondence with him and 
he has been replying by wires. He is looking much pulled down, 
but he is as hopeful as ever about everything. There is nothing 
wrong with his body. It is simply weakness caused by ceaseless 
wear and tear. He promises to take about a month’s rest in 
Ooty. He has Dr. Mangal Singh with him, and, of course, a 
cook. Govind was with him as far as Bombay but has been 
obliged to go to Allahabad as he could not get a postponement 
of his ‘crow case’. 

I wonder if I suggested to you that you should see Miss 
Muriel Lester who is working in the slums of London. She was 


36 


OFF TO LONDON 


in India for some time last year. She was at the Ashram for 
one month. She is a most enthusiastic and able worker. She is 
working in the cause of total prohibition and is trying to cultivate 
public opinion there. Her address is :—Miss Muriel Lester, 
Kingsley Hall, Powis Road, Bow, E. 3. 

I hope that your health has improved and likewise Lalaji’s. 
I descended from Nandi last Sunday. I am making fair progress. 
Doctors here are of opinion that I will be able to resume a 
moderate amount of touring next month. 

Yours, 

Mohandas 

After my return to India later in the year, our cor¬ 
respondence continued to discuss the many problems of 
the day, yet Bapu’s letters often contained those personal 
touches which so much endeared him to others. 

1-10-27. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Your letter. 

I gather from Jamnalalji’s letter that you have returned from 
Europe in bad health. I think it is now necessary for you to 
take a rest and improve your health. I can certainly be of some 
help to you in the selection of items for your diet. But for this 
you will have to spend some time with me. 

You have done well in sending me your opinion on different 
subjects. 

It is not true that non-co-operation is responsible for the 
division of public opinion into two distinct camps. There have 
always been two camps, and what has just taken place is only a 
difference in form. I still believe that non-co-operation alone 
can add to our strength. People have begun to appreciate its 
power; only they still lack the requisite strength to act on it. 
The Hindu-Muslim question is proving another obstacle in the 
way. I can do nothing to help the councils. But the members 
can certainly be of help in the matter of Khadi and Prohibition, 
if they choose to do so. The Khadi work is going on both 
slowly and rapidly at the same time. Slowly inasmuch as we 
cannot foresee the result; rapidly, because whatever is being done 


37 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

is clear enough. Since it has been free from blemish, a salutary 
result is a foregone conclusion. 

My thirst for money is simply unquenchable. I need at least 
Rs. 2,00,000/- for Khadi, Untouchability and Education. The 
dairy work makes another Rs. 50,000/-. Then there is the 
Ashram expenditure. No work remains unfinished for want of 
funds, but God gives after severe trials. This also satisfies me. 
You can give me as much as you like for whatever work you 
have faith in. 

My tour programme extends right to the end of this year 
at least. I hope to reach the Ashram in the month of January. 

I have written a letter to respected Malaviyaji on the Hindu- 
Muslim question. Something must be done in this direction on 
proper lines. What is happening just now appears to me to be 
lacking in the essentials of religion. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mohandas 

Birla House, Benares 
11-10-27. 

My dear Mahatmaji, 

I am thinking of resting here for about twenty days and 
have already started taking medicine prescribed by a Vaidya 
Tryambak Shastriji, in whom I have great faith. I wish I could 
meet some naturopath under whose treatment I could place my¬ 
self with certainty of as good results as I get by placing myself 
under the care of vaidyas. 

Respected Malaviyaji is not here. I hope to be able to give 
between Rs. 50,000/- and Rs. 1,00,000/- for the next year. 

❖ * * 

Whenever you find any particular kind of work impeded for 
lack of funds, you have only to write to me. Even as it is, I shall 
be sending money. I can give more, but for the present J have 
interested myself in several schemes which I consider good for 
the country. That is the reason for this comparative economy. 

Yours sincerely, 

Ghanshyamdas 


38 


OFF TO LONDON 


Betia, P.O. Kr. 6, 
Monday, 14-12-27. 


My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

I am in receipt of your letter. The amount of Rs. 8,000/- 
sent to Jamnalalji is being treated by me as meant for the Spin¬ 
ners’ Association. 

I have been doing some serious and deep thinking on the 
subject of conversion. The methods adopted in conversion can 
hardly be treated as sanctioned by religion. It is unnecessary 
to convert those who changed their religion through compulsion 
or out of ignorance. Such people are, in fact, Hindus—the only 
thing that remains to be done is for Hinduism to be more catholic 
in its outlook. Our movement should be directed against con¬ 
version to Christianity or Islam. That requires a fundamental 
change in our outlook. Once we accept that certain methods 
employed in conversion are blameworthy, we should not follow 
them ourselves. The proper course to meet this form of attack 
would be to find out and employ some righteous remedy. By 
furthering the shuddhi movement we only add to the filth and 
at the same time prevent the spontaneous urge for reform among 
the followers of Hinduism. I find complete absence of thought¬ 
fulness in the present agitation. When your mind is more steady 
you can think over this matter coolly. I would certainly not 
like any work to be suspended merely because I say so. That 
would be of no use to us. Only when what I say is found to 
be right independently on its own merits, should it be acted upon, 
and only to the extent to which it is found to be right. That 
is why I have been maintaining the present calm and silence. 
When you are free from engagements connected with the Assem¬ 
bly, I would like you to accompany me on my tour for a few 
days. 

I shall be in Calcutta on February 1, on my way to Gandia. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mohandas 

Birla House, Pilani, 

10th January, 1928. 

My dear Mahadev Bhai, 

Jamnalalji has asked me how the recent donation of 
Rs. 78,000/- is to be spent. I leave the matter entirely to the 
discretion of Mahatmaji. If he is not hard pressed for money. 


39 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

I would suggest that preference be given to such schemes as may 
bring Swaraj nearer. Hindu-Muslim unity and uplift of Un¬ 
touchables are the two items which I think are at present very 
essential in the interest of Swaraj. 

Yours sincerely, 

Ghanshyamdas 

Ashram, 7-2-28 . 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Your letter makes me anxious. On the contrary, medicines 
should cause tiredness. In my view fasting is the best of all 
medicines. I have nothing to fear from it. Fasting can do no 
harm, and should be undertaken not for one or two days but 
for ten to fifteen days. If you want to take a course of fasting 
you should stay here. There are one or two gentlemen acquain¬ 
ted with the technique of fasting. These can be called, and 
there is plenty of accommodation. Nowadays the weather here 
is pleasant. In case you wish to invite the specialists in fasting 
to Pilani that also can be arranged. 

I am quite convinced that you should not go to Delhi at 
present. I am also writing to respected Malaviyaji and Lalaji to 
the same effect. I would refer you to my appeal published in 
the Young India and the Navjivan regarding a memorial for Hakim 
Ajmal Khan, and should like to have money from you and your 
friends. If you are not inclined to contribute a large amount, I 
would like to take a substantial portion of the Rs. 75,000/- for 
this purpose, of course with your consent. I leave it to you to 
make your name public in this connection. But if you do not 
feel like giving anything out of that amount, please do let me 
know without hesitation. 

You need not alarm yourself by reading newspaper accounts 
of my health. There is nothing to worry about. The doctors do 
their best to terrify me but I remain unmoved. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mohandas 

2-7-28. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Your letter and draft for Rs. 2,700/-. I do not maintain 
contact with China, but I do not feel like sending a telegram to 
those people as it smacks of pride. Granted life, I certainly 


40 


OFF TO LONDON 


intend to go to China once. They want to invite me to Chinai 
after things quieten down there to some extent. 

I always hesitate to approach you and your brothers for 
funds because whatever I ask of you I get. I note what you say 
about Dakshinamurti. The position is that while there are so* 
many good things to do, there are not many donors. Not that 
a good work is left unfinished, but the fact remains that no new 
donors come forward to help. On the other hand good things* 
awaiting our attention are ever on the increase. 

You are quite right when you say that the value of rules and. 
regulations depends on those who observe them. 

The money has been sent to the Austrian friends. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mohandas 


14-1-29. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Your telegram had reached me. Now I have your letter.. 

1 am proceeding to Sind by the end of this month in connection, 
with the Lajpatrai Memorial Fund. Have you collected some¬ 
thing in Calcutta ? 

As for the milk centre, I had suggested the name of a 
Madrasi. A letter was written to him. If that name does not 
sound well I can give another. As for Khadi Bhandar, it will 
not do to ignore the ideal. The Bhandar should not be conducted 
on purely business lines; the motive of services is to be kept in 
mind. 

I am well. At present my menu consists of 15 tolas almond 
milk, 14 tolas roti, vegetables, raw tomato, 4 tolas linseed oil, and 

2 tolas flour gruel in the morning. I have discontinued taking 
fruit here. I have gained 1% ‘ratals’ in weight in a single week. 
Feeling quite fit. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mohandas 

Bareilly, 13-6-29. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Harbhai is a colleague of Nanabhai in Dakshinamurti 
Bhawan. Nanabhai has fallen ill at Wardha. We have already 
had a talk about this Vidyalaya, and now I am sending Harbhai: 
to you. You alone were to decide as to what help should be. 


41 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

given to this institution. I have given Nanabhai my word of 
assurance, which is based on a donation from you. You will 
now hear everything from Harbhai himself. Look into the 
accounts of the institution, and do whatever you think proper. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mohandas 

Towards the end of the year 1929, the question 
arose of his going to the first Round Table Conference in 
London. The object of convening this conference was 
to remove the disagreeable impression created in India 
by the appointment of the Simon Commission, which 
consisted solely of British members of the Lords and 
Commons, and to enable Indians to take part in the 
drafting of the Government of India Bill, for which the 
Simon Commission had been created to pave the way. 
I tried to get Gandhiji to attend on behalf of India, but 
he was then on the eve of launching his second Civil 
Disobedience campaign and deeply preoccupied by it. I 
wrote to him as follows:— 

Pilani, 11-11-29 . 

Revered Mahatmaji, 

I am here and shall return after about a week. You might 
have seen the Lords’ and the Commons’ debates. In my opinion 
the speech delivered by Benn* was quite good, bearing in mind 
the present circumstances. Provided we are prepared to give him 
credit for mental honesty. I feel it was not possible for him to 
say more than what he actually did. He himself has declared that 
there has been a change in the spirit. In spite of Lloyd George’s 
persistent questioning, he declined to say more and thereby in¬ 
directly corroborated our own declarations, according to the San¬ 
skrit adage ‘Silence means Consent’. The fact that he did not 
contradict our leader’s statements is a happy augury, indeed. My 
own impression is that both the Viceroyf as well as Wedgwood 
Benn want to help, but that we shall not have anything approa¬ 
ching complete Dominion Status. I firmly believe that if you do 

* Mr. Wedgwood Benn, Secretary of State for India. 

t Lord Irwin, now Lord Halifax. 


42 


OFF TO LONDON 


go there, it will be all to our own advantage inasmuch as they 
will think many times before allowing you to return dissatisfied. 
They might yield everything except Defence. But in case you 
do not go, the situation might take an ugly turn. It is this 
anxiety that has led me to write this to you, and I take the liberty 
of suggesting that you should take charge of the situation—con¬ 
sistent with honour, of course. I know very well that nothing 
would make you happier than this; still I thought it proper to 
write. I have never counselled you on political matters, but 
under the present circumstances I have felt it necessary. You 
are aware of the country’s weakness as well as its strength, much 
more than I am. But at times I feel despondent and on such 
occasions I am inclined to think that if we at all desire to derive 
any benefit from your sacrifices and not from any strength that 
we might possess, then now is the time to get busy about it. If 
they offer Dominion Status you would accept it at once, I know. 
But I do not think they will do anything of the kind. At present 
we can hope to get, with your co-operation of course, everything 
except Defence. I was afraid you might not be inclined to accept 
that much and might decline to participate in the Round Table 
Conference; that is why I have written this letter. After you left 
I met the Viceroy at dinner and gathered the following in the 
course of conversation : 

1. He will be reluctant to release the prisoners, but will 
ultimately agree to do so. 

2. The Conference will be organised in consultation with you 
and other leaders. 

3. The Conference will start by July next, probably. 

4. It is difficult to concede complete Dominion Status. But 
this last they will leave to the Conference. 

They neither want to say that complete Dominion Status 
would take time, nor that it would be conceded soon. My own 
impression is that for the present we will not be getting full 
Dominion Status. Still we can achieve a great deal just now, 
leaving the rest to be realised in the course of the next 5-10 years. 
Placed as we are, how can we aspire for more just now? The 
sum and substance of all this is that it would be decidedly to our 
advantage for you to meet the British Cabinet. Let us not miss 
this opportunity. Even if the Conference fails in its purpose, we 
shall stand to gain inasmuch as the left-wingers will come to the 


43 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

fore. Both ways we stand to gain. This at least is what I 
believe. You are, however, the best judge. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

I did not succeed in persuading Gandhiji to attend 
the first conference. On the contrary, he expected to be 
sent to prison. We met at Wardha and he made it clear 
to me that his distrust of the British was acute and he 
urged that Indian members should have nothing more 
to do with the Legislative Assembly. On 28th February 
1930 he wrote: ‘They [the British] are only taking 
advantage of our ignorance and cowardice. The sooner 
the Assembly is bidden good-bye the better. I have little 
hope of remaining out of jail till March next.’ 

The Swaraj Party on this occasion took his advice 
and walked out of the Assembly. I was not convinced 
of the wisdom of this, as the Assembly was providing a 
useful experience for Indians in the working of parlia¬ 
mentary institutions; the Swaraj Party fully realised this 
and they stood again at the next elections and returned 
to the Assembly. In the following year, Gandhiji yield¬ 
ed to the arguments of the Viceroy, Lord Willingdon* 
and the prayers of personal friends such as Pandit Mala- 
viya and myself. He agreed to attend the second Round 
Table Conference, for which the Congress nominated him 
as its sole representative. As I was not a member of 
Congress I accepted a Government invitation to partici¬ 
pate, representing the business community. So much 
has been written of the details of Gandhiji’s visit to Eng¬ 
land, that I need not attempt to record it here. His rela¬ 
tions with Lord Halifax were always those of increasing 
confidence after they had met in India during Lord Hali¬ 
fax’s viceroyalty and hammered out the Gandhi-Irwin 
Pact. But the scene had changed from that of the first 
conference in the previous year. Mr. Ramsay Mac¬ 
donald was still Prime Minister and presided, but he was 
no longer the Head of a Labour Government but of a 


44 


OFF TO LONDON 


Coalition, of which Mr. Baldwin and his Conservative 
followers formed a predominant part. A Conservative, 
Sir Samuel Hoare (Lord Templewood), had replaced 
Mr. Wedgwood Benn as Secretary of State for India. 
Consequently, I was inclined to share Gandhiji’s suspi¬ 
cions, as the following letter will show:— 

London, 31st October, 1931. 

My dear Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, 

Mr. Jayakar and yourself must have thought it very stupid 
of me when in spite of your opinion to the contrary, I was putting 
my own interpretation on Clauses 18, 19 and 20 of the Federal 
Structure Committee Report, but my main intention was to point 
out the fears which I entertained, and if I was too much obsessed 
with such fears I think it is pardonable because there is ample 
justification for these, if we look into the past. If my interpreta¬ 
tion is wrong, well and good. But in any case I think this letter 
of mine can only help you to guard against any encroachment 
in a subtle manner by vested interests on the financial control 
which you think we have been promised and which we much 
desire; we must have it without any qualification. 

Now according to my feeling the Control of the Finance 
Department should be judged by our control of the actual amount 
of finance. Supposing we were given cent per cent control minus 
99 per cent reservation, I, as a businessman, would simply say 
that our control was only 1 per cent. Whereas if we were given 
control to the extent of cent per cent minus 50 per cent reser¬ 
vation, I would say that our control amounted to 50 per cent. 
Let us see on this basis how much control we are getting in the 
Finance Department. 

If you read the first portion of Clause 19, it appears that 
we have been given cent per cent control, subject to certain limi¬ 
tations. Now let us see what these limitations are. In my opinion 
the following limitations have been laid down in Clauses 18, 19 
and 20 : 

(1) Establishment of Reserve Bank. 

(2) Previous sanction of the Governor-General for Amend¬ 
ing Paper Currency or Coinage Acts. 

(3) Establishment of Statutory Railway Board. 


45 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

(4) Constitution of Consolidated Fund Charge for securing 
finance for 

(a) Debt Service. 

(b) Sinking Fund for Debt Service. 

(c) Salaries and Pensions. 

(d) Military. 

(5) Power to the Governor-General of intervening in regard 
to budgetary arrangements and borrowings, when he 
thought that methods were being pursued which would 
in his opinion seriously prejudice the credit of India. 

In my opinion these powers cover more or less cent per cent 
of the field of finance, and I contend therefore that under these 
clauses we get no responsibility. Let me give you a brief sketch 
of the Finance Department and you will be able to judge whether 
I am right or not. Including the Railway Budget, the total reve¬ 
nue and expenditure of the Finance Department amount to about 
130 crores. The Finance Department, besides this, also manage 
Indian Currency and Exchange. Now, I assume—and if I act 
with distrust I must put the worst interpretation on the clauses— 
that the Reserve Bank will not be a thing of our creation and 
that the Assembly will have more or less no authority over it. I 
myself do not desire any political influence on the Reserve Bank 
in its day-to-day affairs, but the Legislature must be the final 
authority about deciding the policy of the Reserve Bank, and I 
think powers have been taken away from us by the provision 
of our having to take previous sanction from the Governor-Gene¬ 
ral for purposes of amending the Paper Currency Act. By con¬ 
stituting a Statutory Railway Board, which again I assume will not 
be our own creation nor under our control, 40 crores is proposed 
to be taken away from us, so that we shall be left with 90 crores. 
The Army requires 45 crores, Debt Services 15 crores, Pensions 
and other charges 15 crores. Thus 75 crores are constituted into 
a Consolidated Fund which will have first charge on our revenue. 
This leaves only 15 crores for us out of 130 crores. Anyone 
who has got a first charge to the extent of 115 crores on a total 
of 130 crores would naturally like to interfere at every step in 
our budgetary arrangements, and also our borrowing arrangements, 
and it is for this reason that the Governor-General has been given 
power to intervene. Fluctuation of 5 or 10 crores in the budget 
with a freaky Indian monsoon is inevitable, and therefore there 


46 


OFF TO LONDON 


will always be a danger of the Governor-General pouncing on 
the Finance Member at every step. The Finance Member will 
therefore be compelled to be a mere tool in the hands of the 
Governor-General. In my opinion, therefore, there is no control 
given under these three clauses to the popular minister. I main¬ 
tain that they do not confine themselves to the Reserve Bank as 
you are interpreting, but that they cover the entire field of finance. 

You may ask me, what then is the alternative? I said yester¬ 
day that these clauses were only the natural consequence of the 
constitution of the Consolidated Fund Charge. There are two 
alternatives. Either the Consolidated Fund Charge should be 
much smaller than what is proposed, or the Governor-General 
should have no power to intervene unless we default. I think we 
should insist on both. The Consolidated Fund Charge could be 
made smaller only by reserving a much smaller sum for the Army, 
and asking for relief in regard to our Debt Service. Benthall told 
me that it may be possible to ask for such relief. He said that 
instead of insisting, as the Congress does, on cancellation of some 
debts, we may ask Great Britain to capitalize these. In any case 
we ought to fight for substantial relief, if we are to find money 
for popular services in India. If military charges were reduced 
to 35 crores and Debt Service and other charges, after receiving 
relief from Great Britain, were reduced to 20 crores, then the 
total Consolidated Fund would not exceed 55 crores. If the Re¬ 
serve Bank and the Statutory Railway Board were to be a crea¬ 
tion entirely of our own with full control by the Legislature so 
far as the general policy is concerned, then I think it would leave a 
good latitude to the Finance Member. It may then be very pro¬ 
perly suggested that after all the Governor-General had a first 
charge only on 55 crores out of a total revenue of 130 crores, 
therefore, he should have no power to intervene in budgetary and 
internal borrowing arrangements. 

I think I have fully explained my point. I have not the least 
doubt in my mind that my fears are entirely well founded. The 
interpretation which I have put is in my opinion the only interpre¬ 
tation which could be put on these three clauses. Englishmen, 
in my opinion, could not put any different interpretation but if 
you still believe that these clauses confine themselves to the estab¬ 
lishment of a Reserve Bank, then I would suggest that you should 
get the points cleared up by having them differently worded. It 


47 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

is because I put a different interpretation that I said that the pro¬ 
posed Financial Council could not be a substitute for these three 
clauses. The proposed Financial Council would be a very inno¬ 
cuous thing if it were of our own creation, whereas these three 
clauses give very wide powers to the Governor-General over the 
entire field of our finance. In fact the so-called control of finance 
is reduced to a nullity. 

I hope you will give your careful consideration to my note. 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla. 

PS.—I have written at some length in order to bring home to you 
my appreciation that if the formula is accepted as discussed by 
us yesterday, on the basis of paragraph 18, it is bound to 
involve continual interference from the Governor-General in 
the budgetary arrangements unless and until substantial reduc¬ 
tions are assured in Military expenditure and in the Debt 
charges. If these two items are reduced as indicated above, 
the British Government and Commercial interests will not be 
justified in asking for the intervention of the Governor-General 
in budgetary arrangements, and I put this PS. to indicate to 
you in a few words the net result of what I have said above. 

Sir Tej had been the equivalent in those days of a 
Cabinet Minister in India and had represented his 
country at an Imperial Conference, so he was better 
acquainted with the peculiar ways of the British than I 
was at that time. I knew that an Englishman’s word 
was supposed to be his bond, and therefore as a busi¬ 
nessman I scrutinised the words and expected the British 
to exact their pound of flesh. But such is the tradi¬ 
tional make-believe of the British Constitution that in 
high governmental matters the British adopt the very 
opposite of their attitude in business matters and say 
one thing when they mean another. This arose in the 
process of limiting the monarchy as painlessly as pos¬ 
sible, and is continued in the evolutionary process of 
limiting the authority of the British Parliament and 
people over colonies and dependencies till they achieve 
independence. Judge, therefore my surprise when Sir 


48 


OFF TO LONDON 

Tej and his close adherent Mr. Jayakar were not only 
unconvinced by my letter but continued to disagree with 
my argument. This prompted me to write the following 
letter:— 

London, 2nd December, 1931. 

Dear Dr. Jayakar, 

During our discussion at King Street yesterday you expressed 
your disapproval of my speech at the Round Table Conference. 
As I value your opinion I was extremely sorry that you should 
have disagreed with my views, but I may say that I did not spring 
any surprise upon you. I sent you a copy of my letter which I 
wrote to Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, on the 31st October, and since 
then neither you nor Sir Tej ever discussed the matter with me to 
convince me that I was wrong, and the only inference that I there¬ 
fore drew was that you were probably satisfied with the interpre¬ 
tation which I had put on clauses 14, 18 and 21. In fact you 
did not even acknowledge receipt of my letter. What disappointed 
me, however, was that in the Federal Structure Committee, Sir Tej, 
far from removing the apprehension entertained by me, went fur¬ 
ther and after confirming the paragraphs 14, 18 and 21 as they 
originally stood, more or less supported Sir Samuel Hoare’s state¬ 
ment on the safeguards. The last report of the Federal Structure 
Committee on financial safeguards is in a way a paraphrase of the 
statement made by Sir Samuel Hoare. Sir Purshottamdas tried 
to point out the defects in the Federal Structure Committee, but 
unfortunately he failed to get any support from your side. 

The latest position thus amounts to this, that safeguards as 
formulated in paragraphs 14, 18 and 21 are confirmed, and it is 
further suggested that it is premature at this stage to define them 
in greater detail. In my opinion this should leave no doubt as 
to what is meant by safeguards. Their implications are now per¬ 
fectly clear to me and they simply confirm my views, which I 
put at length in my letter to Sir Tej on the 31st October. 

I very much regret that when Sir Purshottamdas Thakurdas 
raised the question of a Statutory Railway Board in the Federal 
Structure Committee, he had a similar experience. Even on the 
question of discrimination in administrative action Sir Tej Baha¬ 
dur supported the idea of the question being decided by the 
Supreme Court. Here again Sir Purshottamdas fared no better. 

49 

4 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

In my opinion this is a very dangerous principle which it is pro¬ 
posed to establish. It is really unfortunate that we could not 
carry your and Sir Tej’s support even on matters in which legiti¬ 
mately we can claim to be heard. However, that is beside the 
point. 

I do not agree with you that the question of revising para¬ 
graphs 14, 18 and 21 is still left open for discussion. It pains 
me however to see that they were not revised here when we had 
an opportunity to do so. I wonder, however, how you can inter¬ 
pret the Premier’s speech as providing for the re-opening of the 
whole question, as you said to Mahatmaji yesterday. The future 
structure can only be built on the basis of the reports which you 
have presented and to which you are all committed, and which, 
in my opinion, do not give a vestige of control as far as the 
Finance Department is concerned, to say nothing of army and 
external affairs. 

The Working Committee of the Round Table Conference 
certainly cannot undo what has already been done or settled. 
It can only pursue further matters already decided upon, but as 
yet neither its terms of reference nor the scope of its work has 
been defined. 

I assure you that I am open to conviction, and I would be 
much relieved to feel that I am wrong, but I must submit that 
you have not helped the course by committing yourselves to 
certain conclusions, at least without showing us that our appre¬ 
hensions are ill-founded. However, this is just to explain my 
personal views. Let me again hope that you are right. 

As one of your colleagues in the old National Party in the 
Assembly, is it too much for me yet to suggest to you that you 
make your wishes clear that you are not committed to the finan¬ 
cial safeguards which the majority of the Conference has passed, 
and that you will ask for the re-opening of this and other points 
which I have mentioned above ? I sincerely trust that you may 
still be able to do this. 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 

When the Government of India Act came into force 
in 1937, the Governor-General and the Governors made 
no attempt to interfere with Congress Premiers or 
Governments in the Provinces of India. And when 


50 


OFF TO LONDON 


Gandhiji had finally convinced the British Government 
that India was a nation, they gracefully eliminated them¬ 
selves. Of our own volition we retain the Reserve Bank 
and the Railway Board and even choose to remain in 
the Commonwealth though we are a Republic. All of 
which shows the importance of understanding one 
another’s ways. Britain did not try to understand in the 
earlier stages. But the end of the mutual understanding 
was undoubtedly glorious. 


51 


CHAPTER IV 

CONSTITUTIONAL SAFEGUARDS 

I went so far as to urge the setting up of a special 
committee to consider the financial safeguards. The 
conference broke up and I returned to India, where I 
received a letter from Sir Samuel turning down my sug¬ 
gestion and inviting me instead to join a different com 
mittee:— 

India Office, 

Personal. Whitehall, 27 th January, 1932. 

Dear Mr. Birla, 

I promised to let you know what I thought of your suggestion 
that the question of financial safeguards might be referred to a 
special committee which would include members with financial 
qualifications who are not members of the Round Table Con¬ 
ference Consultative Committee. On the whole I have come to the 
conclusion that it would be a mistake now that we have set up 
the Consultative Committee which is to act in pursuance of the 
general policy indicated at the Round Table Conference, if we 
were to graft on to it a system of sub-committees with members 
drawn from outside. I feel that such a system might lead to 
wide and embarrassing ramifications. I understand that Sir Pur- 
shottamdas Thakurdas finds himself unable to join the Consulta¬ 
tive Committee. It is open to you to ask for a seat on the 
Committee, and if you were to do so I have little doubt that 
you would be nominated as a member. 

Yours sincerely, 

Samuel Hoare 

As Gandhiji had by this time resumed the Civil Dis¬ 
obedience campaign, and the Federation of Indian 
Chambers of Commerce and Industries, of which I was 
the ex-President, were not associating themselves with 
the Round Table Conference, in thanking Sir Samuel 
for his kind offer I wrote from New Delhi on the 14th 
February 1932:— 


52 


CONSTITUTIONAL SAFEGUARDS 


Dear Sir Samuel, 

It is very kind of you to suggest that in case I care to join 
the Committee I would be nominated. I, however, do not think 
that that would be a correct attitude on my part. In such a 
case I would prove my disloyalty to the Federation and my un¬ 
worthiness to serve any good cause. The best service I can 
render to my own country as well as to the cause of co-operation 
is to persuade the Federation to officially offer its co-operation. 
I know Sir Purshottamdas Thakurdas also holds the same opinion 
as myseif with reference to our participation in the work of the 
working committee. Besides, as a representative of the Indian 
Mercantile community, in many respects he is better. He is 
more tactful, has greater experience, and more ability. If we 
can both persuade the Federation to modify its attitude I have 
not the least doubt that he is the fittest man to represent the 
Indian Mercantile community. 

I hope to write to you again after the meeting of the Federa¬ 
tion which is being invited to rediscuss this very question. 

I came to Delhi to discuss this problem with important 
members of the Federation and am leaving tomorrow for Calcutta. 
I shall discuss there with Mr. Benthall and others the question of 
closer co-operation between the two communities interested in 
trade and commerce. 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 

In his next letter Sir Samuel raised the new and 
burning question of the coming Ottawa Conference on 
Empire preference:— 

India Office, 

Whitehall, 25th February, 1932. 

Dear Mr. Birla, 

Many thanks for your letter of the 14th February. I am 
very glad indeed to hear that you and Sir Purshottamdas are 
trying to persuade the Federation to modify its attitude in regard 
to co-operation with the constitutional discussions and I wish you 
well in this work. I shall be interested to hear from you again 
when the meeting of the Federation has been held. I am glad 
also to hear that you are having discussions with Mr. Benthall 
and others with a view to closer co-operation between the two 
communities in the matter of trade and commerce. 


53 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

There is another very important question to which I would 
suggest that you and Sir Purshottamdas and your friends should 
turn your minds. That is the question of the Ottawa Conference 
which, as you know, is going to be held in the summer. I am 
aware of course of the past history of the question of inter¬ 
imperial tariff relations so far as India is concerned, but I hope 
you will realise that the new policy of His Majesty’s Government 
puts this question on a new and different footing, a footing on 
which sentiment and politics ought to be of much less importance 
than considerations of economic interest. I shall be much dis¬ 
appointed if India is not represented at Ottawa in a spirit which 
will enable negotiations to take place with a view to the volun¬ 
tary and mutual benefit of the trade and commerce of both 
countries. 

Yours sincerely, 

Samuel Hoare 

I consulted the Committee of the Federation of 
Indian Chambers of Commerce and replied as follows:— 

Birla House, 

New Delhi, 14th March, 1932 . 

Dear Sir Samuel, 

Thanks for your letter of 25th February. 

We have had a meeting of our Committee and I enclose 
herewith a copy of the resolution passed.* As you will see from 
this, for immediate results the resolution does not carry us much 
further but it definitely commits us to a policy of co-operation 
and, as such, is a great improvement on the previous resolution. 
In the first part of it, we ask the Government to change its 
present policy of repression; in the second, we repudiate the 
interpretation put on our previous resolution by Sir George 
Rainey; and in the third part, we definitely offer our co-operation 
to the committee which we propose should be appointed to examine 
and come to an agreed solution on all financial matters. We had 
a full discussion on the matter and it was made clear at the 
meeting that if the Government decided to adopt our suggestion 
and appointed a Committee as requested by us, the Federation 
would be prepared to participate not only in the new committee 
but also in the Consultative Committee. 

* See Appendix. 


54 


CONSTITUTIONAL SAFEGUARDS 


It was not possible to go beyond this. The opinions received 
from the member-bodies were overwhelmingly in favour of non¬ 
participation, but the Committee took upon itself the responsibility 
of giving the lead and decided, against the views of the various 
constituencies, to offer its co-operation, though conditionally. 
The annual session will be held on the 26th and 27th March 
when this resolution will have to be confirmed. Confirmation of 
this is essential as we have acted against the general opinion of 
our constituencies. The Committee, however, unanimously deci¬ 
ded to stake their existence on this resolution, and if it is not 
passed they have decided to resign in a body. In a way, they 
have shown great courage and I hope that the resolution in its 
present form will be passed. In that event I think I should press 
upon you my original suggestion which has now been adopted 
by the Federation in the form of the present resolution. 

Since writing to you last I have had a talk with Lord Lothian 
and Sir George Schuster and I explained to them how it would 
be a waste of time for us to discuss financial safeguards with 
those who did not understand the subject. I impressed upon 
them that the best method of arriving at a practical solution on 
these matters was that experienced businessmen of both sides 
should sit at a table and come to an agreed solution. Both Lord 
Lothian and Sir George Schuster very much liked my suggestion 
and promised to write to you. I hope they have done so. I will 
see Schuster in a day or two and am also seeing the Viceroy on 
the 17th, but I would earnestly ask you to reconsider your attitude. 
If you can appoint a Committee—it may be under the auspices 
of the Consultative Committee—consisting of men like Lord 
Reading and Sir Basil Blackett and an equal number from our 
side to sit in London and discuss the whole financial field, I am 
sure much good can come out of it. 

It may not be possible at present to have an agreement 
between a radical India and a most conservative Parliament, but 
I submit that it is possible to have an agreement between the 
present Parliament and progressive Indian opinion. And it is in 
this direction that I seek your help and guidance. I wish you 
to realise that if a constitution is introduced without the consent 
even of progressive people, to say nothing of the Congress Party, 
its smooth working cannot be guaranteed. On the other hand, 
if you can give us a constitution to the liking of the progressive 


55 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

people it can have even Gandhiji’s blessings. I always make a 
distinction between Gandhiji and the Congress, and I again submit 
that it is possible for you to give us a constitution, which, though 
not acceptable to the Congress, may not be rejected by Gandhiji, 
and which can ensure a smooth working in future. If the next 
day after the introduction of a constitution a movement to wreck 
it is started, then peace becomes impossible; and what I want 
is a permanent peace between the two countries. I will, therefore, 
ask you to seriously consider the resolution which we have passed 
and see whether it is not possible for you to utilise this oppor¬ 
tunity for bringing progressive opinion closer to you. I ask you 
to give us a chance to work for peace, and I, therefore, implore 
you to reconsider our suggestion. 

As regards closer co-operation between the two communities, 

I regret to have to say that I have not been given much encou¬ 
ragement by Mr. Benthall. In London we acted in the friendliest 
spirit, each trying to see and appreciate the point of view of the 
other, and I expected that this spirit would continue in India. 
But he seems to be a changed man just now and the report of a 
speech which he recently made in Calcutta (a copy of which I 
enclose herewith) has simply amazed me. That after our friend¬ 
liest co-operation in London he should call us ‘irreconcilables’ 
and try to ridicule Gandhiji is a thing which is beyond my com¬ 
prehension. The report, in my opinion, does not do credit even 
to himself. This has had a very bad effect on the minds of the 
Indian Mercantile-community. Yet so far as we are concerned, 
we do not want to give a wrong lead to our constituencies and. 
therefore my efforts in the right direction will continue. 

But to do constructive work one requires an atmosphere of 
trust and friendship and this at present is unfortunately lacking 
in India. Your letters to me, in fact, are a relieving feature of 
the present unhappy situation. Evidently you are of a trustful 
nature and this increases my responsibility. I should, therefore, 
like you to know me as I really am. I need hardly say that I 
am a great admirer of Gandhiji. In fact, if I may say so, I am 
one of his pet children. I have liberally financed his Khaddar- 
producing and untouchability activities. I have never taken any 
part in the Civil Disobedience movement. But I have been a 
very severe critic of the Government and so have never been 
popular with them. Even to-day I do not see eye to eye with the 


56 


CONSTITUTIONAL SAFEGUARDS 


policy of the Government. I wish I could convert the authorities 
to the view that Gandhiji and men of his type are not only friends 
of India but also friends of Great Britain, and that Gandhiji is 
the greatest force on the side of. peace and order. He alone is 
responsible for keeping the left wing in India in check. To 
strengthen his hands is, in my opinion, therefore, to strengthen 
the bond of friendship between the two countries. But I am 
afraid in the present atmosphere it is an uphill task to truly 
explain Gandhiji. Probably the best way to success in this mis¬ 
sion is to give you our co-operation as far as possible. And 
with such ‘disqualifications’ as I possess, if you think I can be 
of any use in bringing about happy relations between the two 
countries you can always rely on my humble services. 

With reference to the Ottawa Conference, if it is your desire 
that Indian trade and commerce should be represented at the 
Conference, as I interpret your letter to mean, Sir Purshottamdas 
would be delighted to accept the invitation when it is extended to 
him. I am writing this with his full consent. The Committee 
of the Federation will not be averse to this proposition. We 
realise the importance of this Conference and you may rely on 
our support in the right direction. 

May I, however, in this connection, give you another sug¬ 
gestion ? Whatever is decided at Ottawa should not be ratified by 
the Indian Assembly until the new Constitution comes into opera¬ 
tion and, in my humble opinion, the agreement which may be 
arrived at should not be made effective without ratification by the 
new Government. We are all in favour of reciprocal arrangement 
on economic grounds. Of course the arrangement will have to 
be such as should also find favour with public opinion, but it is 
not difficult to devise such a plan. 

I very much appreciate that you do not ignore past 
history, and so far as we are concerned, you will find us always 
ready to work for the economic interest, leaving aside sentiment 
and politics. 

I will be here for a fortnight and then go back to Calcutta. 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 

Later there was a slight modification in the third 
paragraph of the resolution and I wrote again:— 


57 


JN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

Birla House, 

New Delhi, 28th March, 1932 „ 

Dear Sir Samuel, 

The annual session of the Federation concluded yesterday 
and after a very heated discussion we passed the resolution, a 
copy of which I am enclosing herewith. As you will see from 
this, there has been a change made in the language of the third 
paragraph of the original resolution, but in substance it is the 
same. In some respects this resolution is better than the one 
passed by the Committee because it is not vague and definitely 
offers co-operation under certain conditions. 

I have nothing more to add to my last letter. I feel satisfied 
that I have been able to persuade the Federation to adopt the 
view which I put forward during my conversation with you in 
London. In view of this, if at any time you think we could 
serve the cause of peace and progress in India we would be 
delighted to offer our help. I would ask you to take a longer 
view. I say this because the official group in India is working 
with a day-to-day policy and depending for light on factors un¬ 
certain and unknown. This is not a policy of statesmen. I do 
not want to make any further comment on this aspect of the 
Indian situation, but I very much wish that the Government 
tried to achieve permanent peace—not something patched up— 
between the two countries. To my mind that achievement is 
possible even with the present Conservative Parliament. 

Please excuse me for encroaching upon your time every now 
and then. 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 

Sir Samuel Hoare replied on the 8 th of April to 
say that he was carefully thinking over important points 
that I had raised and that he would write later. 

My diary records that: 

I met the Governor of Bengal [Sir John Anderson, now 
Lord Waverley] at 10-30 a.m. on the 10th April, 1932. He 
seemed to be a very shrewd and intelligent man. He speaks 
very little, and seems to understand economic questions very well. 
I started the discussion on the weather and asked if he was not 
feeling uncomfortable owing to the heat. We immediately came 


58 


CONSTITUTIONAL SAFEGUARDS 


to close grips on more important subjects. I expressed the hope 
that his visit to Simla would bring better results. He enquired 
if I meant better results in economic spheres. I said I did not 
expect any improvement in economic spheres. I was referring to 
politics. Economic improvement was impossible. The world 
was suffering from a bad monetary system and until the system 
was changed it could not improve except by natural adjustment 
which should take a pretty long time, and may even cause a serious 
upheaval in the construction of society. He agreed with me that 
stability of prices was better, but who could be entrusted with the 
complicated management of a ‘managed’ currency. I told him 
there was no intricacy. If we undertook to provide so many 
grains of gold in exchange for rupees, I said, ‘Why cannot you 
undertake similarly to provide 100 index figures for one rupee?’ 
He said an index figure was a complicated thing. I agreed but 
pointed out that nothing was perfect in this world. He foresaw 
speculation as a result. I pointed out that speculation would be 
discouraged except in gold. He liked the idea but was nervous 
about putting the system in practice. I said only a dictator could 
do it. The world was suffering from a stupid democracy. We 
wanted democratic dictators. It sounded rather paradoxical, but 
he knew what I meant. I pointed out that 75 per cent of the 
political troubles were due to bad economics. India was suffer¬ 
ing from a low level of prices which should immediately be put 
up by 50 per cent. He enquired whether it was necessary 
to have such a big rise. I said, yes, and pointed out that Sir Basil 
Blackett also agreed with me. I wanted him to study the whole 
question. In 1921 there was no unrest among cultivators. The 
political disturbance was confined to the working classes. Why 
is it that working classes are so quiet now and the whole agrarian 
population is so full of discontent? He agreed and pointed out 
that the Congress made efforts to stir up labour but failed. I said 
I had made a deep study of the subject and found that except 
in the consumption of cloth the villager had made cuts in all 
directions. This year he has been able to make both ends meet 
by selling gold, partial payment of land revenue and non-payment 
of interest. There would be no more gold left to sell next year 
and therefore he would stop entirely the payment of land revenue 
and taxes. I pointed out that my estate could collect only 5 per 
cent of the revenue in Chhota Nagpur. Whatever happened in 


59 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

India it was impossible to have any peace for the next 15 years 
unless prices were raised, but we can escape the worst effect of 
this discontent if political disturbance is removed from the scene. 
I pointed out that to me it appeared a most puzzling as well as 
a most simple affair. It was a simple affair because we were on 
common ground. Dominion Status with reservations and safe¬ 
guards was more or less a common ideal for the time being. 
Gandhiji wanted to discuss safeguards. Why was this not dis¬ 
cussed and why was he not allowed interviews and discussions on 
various matters? 

He remained silent. I tried to point out that Gandhiji was 
a reasonable man and explained to him my connections with 
Gandhiji. I told him that I had known Gandhiji since 1916, had 
been his ardent admirer since 1921 and worked with him in the 
R. T. C. I told him that I was one of the worst critics of the 
Government in political and economic spheres. Though I did 
not take an active part in the Civil Disobedience Movement I 
had done everything else to embarrass the Government and had 
very liberally subscribed to Gandhiji’s constructive programmes. 
I could therefore claim that I knew which way Gandhiji’s mind 
was running. He was a most reasonable man and very modest 
in outlook. I recognised that it was not possible to meet the 
full demand of the Congress but said that it was possible to in¬ 
troduce a Constitution which might not be rejected by Gandhiji. 
What is the use of introducing a Constitution which would not 
be accepted ? Sir John again agreed with me. He said a 
Constitution was coming in any case. He did not think it would 
be of any use unless it was at least passively acceptable. I told 
him he could do much. He agreed with me about my description 
of Gandhiji. Findlater Stuart had spoken to him very highly of 
Gandhiji. He said doubts were expressed by himself to Findlater 
Stuart whether Gandhiji would not be rushed into the Civil Dis¬ 
obedience Movement, but Findlater Stuart told him no one on 
earth could rush Gandhiji into things which he did not want; 
but he said unfortunately he had been stampeded by his lieuten¬ 
ants. I assured him that his reading was incorrect. Gandhiji was 
rushed into things by Lord Willingdon. The Viceroy was not 
a man of imagination. Hailey was one. He was another. Lord 
Willingdon had no sympathy with Gandhiji. He did not know 
him and did not understand him. Sir John asked whether 


60 


CONSTITUTIONAL SAFEGUARDS 


Gandhiji was a practical man. I said, immensely. He said that 
Findlater Stuart had said that he was not very practical. I said 
for a western mind it was somewhat difficult to understand a 
philosophical mind like that of Gandhiji. He wanted to know 
how far Gandhiji would be prepared to accept reservations and 
safeguards. About the military I told him that we realised we 
could not get immediate control but Gandhiji would suggest cer¬ 
tain formulae which may be acceptable to all. About finance we 
were prepared to put ourselves in the position of a factory pro¬ 
prietor who had to deal with debenture holders. The debenture 
holder should not poke his nose into our day-to-day affairs so 
long as we paid him his dues. I proceeded further and tried 
to give him a constructive suggestion about the future. If 
Gandhiji was released and a satisfactory solution found about the 
terrorist movement, the situation could be eased and Gandhiji 
could co-operate. He listened to these things with great interest 
and said evidently I knew more than many men in India. He 
would like to discuss things further with me on his return and 
wanted me to go to Darjeeling. I promised to go. 


61 


CHAPTER V 

LORD LOTHIAN IN INDIA 

Lord Lothian, who was Parliamentary Under-Secretary 
of the India Office and very sympathetic to India’s aspira¬ 
tions, came out to India as Chairman of the India 
Franchise Committee in 1932. We had interesting dis¬ 
cussions together and before the report of his Committee 
was published I wrote to him as follows in a vain endea¬ 
vour, as it turned out, to secure a practical victory for 
Gandhiji, who was then in prison, and thus prevent the 
necessity for the future non-co-operation campaign :— 

Calcutta, 4th May, 1932 . 

Dear Lord Lothian, 

The newspapers report that your mission is completed and 
that you are flying back to England on the 11th. The report of 
your Committee will shortly be published and from what I hear 
I hope it will be satisfactory. You have been able to create a 
friendly impression on India and this is another gain. Let me 
pray that your association'with India may be helpful in bringing 
about happy relations between the two countries. 

I do not wish to write to you anything just now about the 
present situation. With your keen sense of observation and 
friendly appreciation you know the situation as well as any Indian. 
Why I am writing to you is that I feel that at this critical time 
when many important issues are to be decided I should again 
express my grave doubts about the success of the present dual 
policy as it is called. When we discussed the matter at the Cal¬ 
cutta Club you were convinced when you said that the best method 
to help India was to rush the reforms with the utmost speed. I 
raised the point as to what would be the use of reforms which may 
not be worked by the nationalists, and the same question has 
been rising again and again in my mind. I am afraid I can say 
almost with certainty that no reforms could be successful unless 
these have a backing behind them of progressive Indian opinion. 
I admit that it may not be at present possible to bring about a 
compromise between a radical India and a reactionary Parliament, 
but on further thinking I feel that it is not impossible to introduce 


62 


LORD LOTHIAN IN INDIA 


a Constitution which may have the tacit consent of Gandhiji and 
men of his school. This at least would give some peace to India 
and I am convinced that' it is possible to find a method of achiev¬ 
ing at least this last object. 

I think there are two methods of achieving this object; 
either- by securing the direct co-operation of Gandhiji or his 
indirect co-operation. The correspondence at present passing 
between Gandhiji and Sir Samuel Hoare encourages me to take 
a more cheerful view. The disadvantage of 1930 was that 
Gandhiji was not in touch with the rulers. That disadvantage 
fortunately this time does not exist. With goodwill on both sides, 
therefore, I think a way could be found. 

Now let us analyse both the alternatives. First of all, is it 
possible to get his direct co-operation? I do not think it is so 
difficult. Supposing the Ordinances are not renewed, what would 
then be Gandhiji’s position? The last resolution of the Working 
Committee decided on a policy of Civil Disobedience unless 
substantial relief was granted in the direction of Ordinances. If 
the Ordinances are not renewed the position is substantially 
changed. Then the only question which will require solution will 
be the situation in N.W.F. Province and Bengal. In the U.P. 
so far as I understand, more remission has been granted than what 
was demanded by Jawaharlalji* and therefore there should be no 
fresh difficulties. Supposing therefore that the Ordinances are 
not renewed and Gandhiji is released and granted an interview 
by the Viceroy and the Ordinances in Bengal and N.W.F. Pro¬ 
vince are discussed and a solution found of difficulties at both 
these places, then co-operation in constitution-framing and release 
of all political prisoners follow automatically. The only diffi¬ 
culty which I foresee in this direction is that opinion in India at 
present is much more bitter than it was in March last year. 
Gandhiji may find it difficult to carry with him the Congress to 
co-operate merely on the non-renewal of the Ordinances. The 
rank and file may ask: ‘What is it that India has gained that we 
again talk of peace with the Government?’ Gandhiji can un¬ 
doubtedly carry the Congress ultimately with him but he will have 
to work hard. 

The second alternative may be easier of achievement. Sup¬ 
posing the Ordinances are not renewed, why should not some 

* Mr. Nehru. 


63 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

leaders working under friendly instructions from Gandhiji parti¬ 
cipate in framing the Constitution? Any compromise which may 
thus be arrived at, will at least have Gandhiji’s indirect blessing. I 
wonder how far Gandhiji will like such a procedure, but I feel 
that it is worth while exploring the practicability of this proposal. 
After all Gandhiji’s object is to get a good Constitution and if a 
Constitution could be secured which would not have his dis¬ 
approval, there would be a substantial chance of such a Constitu¬ 
tion being worked smoothly. 

I am writing this for your consideration because I very 
strongly feel that the Government would be making the greatest 
blunder if, relying on the Musalmans, Depressed Classes and the 
Princes, they introduced a Constitution which would not meet 
with the approval of nationalist India. In such circum¬ 
stances the struggle would continue and India would have 
no peace for a very long time to come. The Government should 
ignore the Congress only if it is their intention that no substantial 
advance is to be made. And I am afraid the man in the street 
quite naturally suspects the Government’s bona fides under this 
dual policy, as he reasonably asks what else could be the reason 
for ignoring the co-operation of the Congress. From the feeling 
prevalent in Calcutta I can see that even among non-official 
Europeans the question is being raised as to who is going to work 
the reforms. The leading article in the Englishman the day be¬ 
fore yesterday also expressed sentiment somewhat on these lines. 
I, therefore, wish that no mistake of this kind should be made 
by the Government and avenues of securing the co-operation of 
the Congress should still be explored. 

I wish you bon voyage and hope that I will soon send you 
my congratulations when your report is published. 

I am seeing Sir John Anderson on the 10th and I intend to 
tell him what I am writing to you. 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 

Lord Lothian promptly promised to discuss these issues 
with the Secretary of State on his return to England. 

14th May, 1932. 

Dear Lord Lothian, 

Many thanks for your letter of 8th instant. I hope you had 
a very pleasant and comfortable journey. I wonder whether you 


64 


LORD LOTHIAN IN INDIA 


liked it more than a voyage by sea. Personally I do not care 
much to fly. 

Your remark about the sacrifices of the Congress was simply 
magnificent. It is impossible to estimate correctly the good 
effect of such utterances.* 

I am indeed glad that you are going to discuss the points 
raised in my last letter with the Secretary of State. I feel as if 
there is going to be a change of outlook here, though I do not 
know whether it is not my own imagination. In support of what 
I said in my last letter I would add that unless the leaders are 
released from jail there is no chance of even the communal ques¬ 
tion being settled. I am glad the Government so far has not 
intervened and I do not think it is possible for Hindu Sabhaites 
like Mr. Jayakar, Dr. Moonje or Pandit Malaviya to pave the way 
for meeting the Moslem demands. Gandhiji alone can do it and 
it is no use the Government blaming the Indians for their failure 
to settle the matter when Gandhiji and most of the leading men 
are in jail. You may pertinently ask why this question was not 
settled in India before Gandhiji left for London. I admit the 
charge partially, but I submit that never before have Indians as 
a whole realised the necessity of compromising communal differ¬ 
ences more than at present. To my mind the possibility of a 
communal settlement would be greatly enhanced if the leaders 
were released and a favourable atmosphere created for a calm 
consideration of all the important matters. And after the settle¬ 
ment of the communal question if Sir Samuel could get Gandhiji 
again in London in September and deal with him in Irwin fashion 
I think we can make much headway. 

There is another problem which requires very serious atten¬ 
tion. This is the economic depression. I am afraid it is not 
fully realised in England what a serious position has been created 
in India. Unless prices rise substantially I am afraid we are 
going to have a lot of trouble in this country some time next 
year. I spoke to Sir John Anderson about the situation and I 
felt that he realised the gravity of the situation. 

The Ottawa Conference has more or less been given a burial 
from its very inception. The Government have a knack of doing 
things in their own manner. In 1930 Rainey wanted to impose 
Preference in favour of Great Britain in the cotton tariffs against 

* This refers to the Report of the Lothian Committee- 


5 


65 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

the wishes of the whole Indian mercantile community with the 
result which we all know. This time again it is proposed to do 
something at Ottawa without any regard to the feelings of the 
Indian mercantile community. The result so far is that public 
opinion in this country has been so much roused against the 
Ottawa Conference that there is no chance of a calm considera¬ 
tion of the issues involved on their own merits. How much could 
be achieved by a friendly deal should have been realised by 
Gandhiji’s utterances at Manchester in favour of preference. But 
in India the Government care very little to do things in a proper 
spirit. They want to impose things. This is just to tell you how 
at times troubles are created in India for lack of proper handling. 

I am delighted at your feeling that the new Constitution 
must distribute power equitably among the main elements of the 
Constitution. 

You ask me whether there is any chance of your seeing me 
in London this summer. This is a question which I should like 
to put to you. You get Gandhiji there and we will all accompany 
him. 

I hope you are quite well. 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 

On the 19th July of the same year I had an interview with 
Sir John Anderson with a view to bringing about a per¬ 
sonal meeting between Gandhiji and Sir John. The 
latter was anxious to meet Gandhiji during his term of 
office, as indeed were most of Britain’s governors, though 
in some cases their motive was merely curiosity and their 
unwillingness to return to their own country and to ad¬ 
mit that they had never met the most remarkable person 
in India. Sir John Anderson, however, had more 
serious motives than mere curiosity. But Lord Willing- 
don, the Viceroy, from a political point of view was inter¬ 
posing objections to Governors of Provinces meeting 
Gandhiji. I am glad to say that such a meeting, how¬ 
ever, did eventually take place, but after great ordeals 
and suffering which could have been easily avoided. I 
had proposed to him that I should be allowed to meet 


66 


LORD LOTHIAN IN INDIA 


Gandhiji in jail. My intermittent diary contains a brief 
note on my conversation with Sir John: 

Interview with J. Anderson on 19th July 1932. He said he 
spoke twice to Viceroy—Viceroy was not unfavourable about 
meeting with Gandhiji—J. Anderson will write—Procedure will 
be I will have to apply. I said Gandhiji will not talk politics 
unless he has permission—J. Anderson replied I can show my letter 
to Viceroy and his reply—I go for my own guidance—This will 
be made clear. He referred to my speech—I replied it was an 
interview—he appreciated my position—I made clear that our 
participation depended on Gandhiji—we cannot deliver the 
goods. I suggested that Gandhiji should be invited in spite of 
Ordinances. He said there were difficulties from Tories. 

Then came Gandhiji’s fast unto death. 

My chief anxiety at this period was to get Gandhiji re¬ 
leased from prison where he had begun a fast on the 
issue of Harijan Franchise, and I sent telegrams to Sir 
Tej Bahadur Sapru, Sir Samuel Hoare and Lord 
Lothian : 

EXPRESS I SIR TEJ BAHADUR SAPRU ALLAHABAD 

MAY I REQUEST YOU SHOULD WORK TO GET GANDHIJI RELEA¬ 
SED. FEEL CRISIS COULD BE SAVED BY ENTERING INTO PACT WITH 
DEPRESSED CLASSES BUT THIS ONLY POSSIBLE WITH GANDHIJl'S 
PERSONAL INFLUENCE. BESIDES HIS RELEASE MAY HELP ACHIEVE¬ 
MENT OF OTHER IMPORTANT RESULTS. THEREFORE HOPE YOU WILL 
DO ALL NEEDFUL. GHANSHYAMDAS BIRLA 

CABLE: SIR SAMUEL HOARE, INDIA OFFICE, LONDON. 

CRISIS IS SO SERIOUS THAT I THINK IT MY DUTY TO SEND YOU 
THIS CABLE. IN MY HUMBLE OPINION SITUATION COULD BE SAVED 
IF GOVERNMENT WOULD REALLY BE HELPFUL. FIRST OF ALL 
GANDHIJI WITH IMPORTANT LEADERS SHOULD BE RELEASED WITH¬ 
OUT LEAST DELAY. GANDHIJl'S PRESENCE OUTSIDE WILL BE VERY 
HELPFUL IN ARRIVING AT A PACT WITH DEPRESSED CLASSES. THIS 
PACT SHOULD THEN BE CONFIRMED BY GOVERNMENT. THIS MAY 
LEAD TO OTHER IMPORTANT CONSTITUTIONAL SOLUTIONS. EARN¬ 
ESTLY IMPLORE NO TIME SHOULD BE LOST IN RELEASING GAN- 


67 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


DHIJI. NEED HARDLY EMPHASISE HIS DEATH WILL BE GREAT 
CALAMITY NOT ONLY TO WHOLE EMPIRE. I KNOW FROM PERSO¬ 
NAL KNOWLEDGE WHICH BELIEF I HOPE YOU SHARE HE IS AS 
MUCH A TRUE FRIEND OF BRITAIN AS OF INDIA. G. D. BIRLA. 

To this last I received a reply from the India Office: 


14th September, 1932. 

Dear Mr. Birla, 

I write to say that your telegram of the 13th September to 
Sir Samuel Hoare has been received. Sir Samuel is at present up 
at Balmoral Castle, and I am sending your telegram on to him 
there. 


Yours sincerely, 
W. D. Croft 


I do not appear to have kept a copy of my telegrams 
to Lord Lothian but I received the following acknowledg¬ 
ment and subsequently wrote to him as follows:— 

India Office, Whitehall, 

14th September, 1932. 


Lord Lothian wishes me to acknowledge your telegram of 
13th September regarding Mr. Gandhi’s intention to fast. He has 
sent a copy of your telegram to Lord Irwin. 

16th September, 1932. 

Dear Lord Lothian, 

I sent a cable to you about the release of Gandhiji and I 
dare say many others did the same. I also sent a similar cable to 
Sir Samuel Hoare and I find from this morning’s papers that 
Gandhiji is to be released with certain restrictions—imposed on 
him on the 20th after he begins his fast. This is good to some 
extent but I am afraid even here the action is lacking in grace. 
The Government would have lost nothing had they released him 
immediately and without any restrictions. It would have been 
better had the Government released some of his important collea¬ 
gues also because in this critical time every hand will be required 
to help. One cannot understand the logic of the Premier when 
he wants an agreed solution and yet puts the old man in jail 
immediately he lands in Bombay and releases him when he is on 
the verge of death. How he is to get an agreed solution under 


68 


LORD LOTHIAN IN INDIA 


such circumstances is beyond the comprehension of ordinary 
mortals. Please excuse this warmth but you will appreciate our 
feelings when we find that instead of showing grace at this critical 
time the Government are making matters more difficult. 

Please give us all the help you can and also your valuable 
advice. I will be with Gandhiji for the next few weeks and my 
address at Bombay will be ‘Birla House, Malabar Hill, Bombay.’ 
Even though you are a Minister I hope you will rise above 
officialdom and do all you can to help us. 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 

The history of the pact with Ambedkar need not be 
detailed here. I had quite a good hand in getting it 
concluded. 


CHAPTER VI 

SAFEGUARDS AGAIN 

I was very disappointed with Sir Samuel Hoare’s attitude 
at this time. Although he appeared to have some appre¬ 
ciation of Gandhiji during Bapu’s visit to London for 
the Round Table Conference, he now seemed incapable 
of understanding that no British plan or offer of a Con¬ 
stitution to India had the slightest hope of succeeding 
unless it was one of which Gandhiji could approve. I, 
therefore, wrote Sir Samuel the following letter, in which 
1 expressed freely my disappointment. The immediate 
occasion was an invitation to me to take part in a special 
committee of the Round Table Conference on the ques¬ 
tion of financial and commercial safeguards:— 

Birla House, New Delhi, 

2nd November, 1932. 

Dear Sir Samuel, 

I received today a telegram from His Excellency the 
Governor of Bengal inviting me on your behalf to participate 
in the deliberations of the Special Sub-Committee to be appointed 
for discussing financial and commercial safeguards. While I am 
grateful to you for the invitation and while I myself would love 
to participate in these deliberations, I am afraid there are cir¬ 
cumstances which make my participation rather difficult and as I 
am sure you will not misunderstand me I think it my duty to 
explain to you my difficulties somewhat at length. 

When in March last I used my influence to commit the 
Federation of Indian Chambers to a certain attitude I did so with 
a definite motive. Probably the motive was somewhat selfish, 
but there it was. I had thought that by offering you our co¬ 
operation, however qualified, I would convince you that we were 
true friends who were very eager to see permanent friendly rela¬ 
tions restored between the two countries and I had expected that 
once we could get your trust and confidence it would not be 
difficult for us later on to convince you of the wisdom of our 
advice. I feel that in this object I entirely failed. 


70 


SAFEGUARDS AGAIN 


In your letter of the 8th April, 1932, in reply to mine of the 
14th and 28th March, 1932, you told me that you would write 
to me again, but I have had no further communication from you. 
You were kind enough to consult me about the Ottawa Conference 
and the co-operation of Indian merchants and I secured Sir Pur- 
shottamdas Thakurdas’ consent to go to Ottawa, but the abrupt 
end of the correspondence and the attitude of the Government of 
India made a clear impression on my mind that we had failed 
to be recognised as friends. The Federation of the Indian 
Chambers of Commerce was summarily ignored as regards Ottawa 
and even when you made your statement as regards the procedure 
of further discussion on the Constitution and stated that financial 
safeguards would be discussed by a Committee of experts, I had 
no notion of the exact procedure you were going to adopt. Even 
now I do not know anything about the composition or the terms 
of reference of the special Sub-Committee. And now at the 
eleventh hour I am asked to proceed to London, completely ignor¬ 
ant of the position, with the Indian mercantile community com¬ 
pletely ignored and thus in an irritated mood. Having myself 
sponsored a resolution in my constituency and having got it com¬ 
mitted to the same it can hardly be honest on my part to act 
independently unless I am satisfied that by doing so I am not 
going against the spirit of the resolution passed. If I violate the 
spirit of the resolution I degrade myself in my own esteem. And 
I hope you would be the first to appreciate this. 

Please let me assure you that I am not at all making any 
complaints. I cannot for a moment claim that the Secretary of 
State should take me into confidence. It may have been pointed 
out to you that the Secretary of State should not carry on private 
correspondence with an ordinary man like myself and probably 
this ended the correspondence. I too would not have ventured 
to write to you direct but for the fact that you were kind enough 
to put me at ease in London by suggesting that I might write to 
you whenever I felt I could say something useful. I am, there¬ 
fore, not making any complaints, but what I am pointing out 
is how difficult it becomes for a man to do useful work when 
there is no response from the other side, and I am afraid that 
my or Sir Purshottamdas Thakurdas’ going to London can be 
of little practical use until we are recognised as friends and some 
latitude given to do some useful work for the restoration of 
real peace. 


71 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

Please let me explain what I mean by ‘latitude’ being given 
to us. I will draw your attention to paragraph A of the Resolu¬ 
tion No. 3 of the Federation which begins with the words ‘There 
is no genuine desire’. Now I have always put my own interpreta¬ 
tion on these words. I have felt that we businessmen have got a 
limited influence; yet it is such an influence as can be of great 
help, if it is correctly utilised. My own interpretation of the words 
‘genuine desire’ therefore has been that whenever the Government 
decides to make a correct use of our influence this would amount 
to a genuine desire on its part to come to an agreement with pro¬ 
gressive opinion in India. And I submit that mere participation 
in the financial discussion is not the correct use of our influence. 
After all what could I or Sir Purshottamdas Thakurdas do in 
England if we had no backing? The Indian Mercantile Com¬ 
munity will not back us—my friend Sir Purshottamdas is already 
censured—and we have no claim to the backing of the Nationalist 
Section since we are not politicians. Therefore, even if we 
decided in London to accept certain safeguards we cannot bind 
anyone so far as Indian public opinion is concerned. We, there¬ 
fore, simply aggravate the position if we work without any such 
backing. While, therefore, with proper backing we could be of 
great use, without it we are utterly useless. The only way for 
us to render effective service is that before we participate in the 
discussion of these safeguards we must be given latitude to use our 
influence to get Gandhiji to associate himself with the new Consti¬ 
tution, provided of course that we at least are satisfied with it, 
and I submit that our services could be usefully utilised to create 
such a circumstance. I admit it may not be possible for the 
Cabinet to meet Gandhiji’s demand in full but I maintain, as I 
had also suggested in my last letter to you, that it is possible even 
for this Conservative Parliament to give India a Constitution 
which, while not fully acceptable to the Congress, may at least 
be such as may not be rejected by Gandhiji. I hope you will 
appreciate the difficulty of a Constitution being introduced un¬ 
accompanied by any good-will or co-operation on the part of the 
people who alone, in Mr. Churchill’s words uttered very recently, 
‘can allay or excite political sentiments.’ I am writing this with 
some confidence as I have known all along that Gandhiji is a man 
of compromise, and as I believe that you are a great friend of his 
you are in a position to appreciate him. 


72 








SAFEGUARDS AGAIN 


I tried to get permission to see him and discuss the situation 
before he began his fast, and His Excellency Sir John Anderson 
tried to help me. I did not succeed in getting permission from 
the Government. Then I got a chance to talk to him just before 
his fast but as other matters had then assumed greater importance 
I decided to wait. During the period of the fast he became very 
weak and so I did not want to tax his energy. After the fast, 
all interviews were suddenly stopped but I was allowed to see him 
in connection with the Anti-Untouchability work. I had a four- 
hour talk with him but I could not interest him in any detailed 
political discussjon, as he rightly pointed out to me that I was 
not supposed to discuss such matters. He, however, gave me a 
clear indication that he was himself very eager to see peace res¬ 
tored, and also promised that if I came back with permission to 
talk on these matters he would give me something in writing. I 
again sought the help of His Excellency Sir John Anderson who 
again promised to write to Simla, which I am sure he must have 
done, but without any tangible result. The position just now is 
that restrictions are imposed even on correspondence and inter¬ 
views in connection with the work for the removal of untouch- 
ability which I hope will be removed. A letter of mine on im¬ 
portant questions bearing on Untouchability has been lying un¬ 
answered at Yeravada* for nearly a fortnight. I hope you know 
that I have been appointed President of the All-India Anti- 
Untouchability League and we are getting a wonderful response 
from all parts of the country. But even in this purely construc¬ 
tive and social work we are treated by the Government as ‘un¬ 
touchables’. With such an atmosphere prevailing how can you 
as a practical man expect that the mere introduction of reforms 
will do any good? What is required is an atmosphere of trust 
on the eve of the constitutional change. 

I have written somewhat at length and I am encouraged to 
do so on account of my belief that the obstacle is not Whitehall 
but Simla. I sincerely appreciate your own difficulties but I 
maintain that by mutual co-operation they could be surmounted. 
Evidently you mean business, otherwise you would not set up this 
Committee to discuss financial safeguards, but let me advise you 
as one who has got very great regard for you to please get 
Gandhiji’s commitment before you introduce any reforms, and in 

* Gandhiji’s prison. 


73 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


this field I am prepared to work heart and soul and later on even 
help in the question of financial safeguards. If I am allowed I 
may discuss matters with Gandhiji without arousing the least 
speculations or causing any publicity. And I can even come to 
London to discuss the same with a view to finding ways and means 
to get his co-operation. But I do not want to pose as one who 
can deliver the goods when I know I cannot. 

I hope I have explained my meaning fully and also hope 
that you will take it in the spirit in which I have written. 

I am keeping your invitation private and this letter. 

A resolution of the Federation is attached forjeady reference. 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 


74 


CHAPTER VII 
THE HARIJANS. 

< 

From his prison in Yeravada Gandhiji busied himself 
on behalf of the Harijans. At this time we were found¬ 
ing the All-India Harijan Sevak Sangh of which I be¬ 
came the President. As President I asked Dr. B. C. 
Roy to be the President of the Bengal Branch of the 
Sangh. Dr. B. C. Roy, now the Chief Minister of West 
Bengal, seemed eminently suited for the task, being not 
only a firm believer in the cause, but also a devoted 
adherent of Gandhiji and one of his medical advisers. 
Some people, however, took the view that because Dr. 
Roy took part in politics, his selection as President would 
give an unsuitable political flavour to a purely social 
and humanitarian movement. Gandhiji, who had at first 
endorsed the choosing of Dr. Roy, allowed himself to be 
persuaded by the critics to revoke his approval, and he 
wrote a letter to the Doctor asking the latter to withdraw. 
Dr. Roy replied more in sorrow than in anger and his 
dignified protest wrought a swift change in Gandhiji, 
who ‘unreservedly and unconditionally’ took back all that 
he had written and begged the Doctor to continue. The 
whole incident has perhaps no great importance to¬ 
day, yet it is worth recording as an instance both of 
Gandhiji’s impulsiveness and also his generous temper, 
and the nature of the bonds which bound us all to him. 
Yet he combined with the warm-hearted impulsiveness 
which he displayed when listening to his friends a steel¬ 
like inflexibility of will where great issues and principles 
were involved. 

From a letter to me written from prison late in 
November, it is clear that Gandhiji chose the name of 
our organisation :— 


75 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

Yeravada Mandir, 28-11-32. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

Shindeji is complaining bitterly that we have stolen the name 
of his organisation. His grievance seems justified. We are con¬ 
cerned with work, not with names. Therefore, my inclination is 
that we name it All-India Harijan Sevak Sangh, both in English 
and in Hindi. You are coming down here, but I hope this will 
reach you in time. 

Blessings from Bapu 

This seemed to give Dr. Roy and myself the green light 
to go ahead, but the critics got busy and soon Gandhiji 
wrote the following letter to Dr. Roy :— 

Yeravada Central Prison, 
7th December. 1932. 

Dear Dr. Bidhan, 

I have had a long chat with Syt. Ghanshyamdas Birla, as also 
Satish Baboo regarding the Anti-Untouchability Board for Bengal. 
I have also several letters from Bengal complaining about the 
formation of the Board. Before it was formed Ghanshyamdas 
had told me that he was going to ask you to form the Board, and 
without giving any thought to the suggestion I at once endorsed 
it. But I see that the idea has not found favour in Bengal, es¬ 
pecially so far as Satish Baboo and Dr. Suresh are concerned. 
They think that the Board is bound to have a party colour about 
it. I do not know how far this fear is justified, but I do know 
this, that the work of Anti-Untouchability should not become 
a party affair in any way whatsoever. We want all who desire 
the reform to associate themselves freely and wholeheartedly with 
any organisation that may be formed. I would, therefore, suggest 
that you should call all the workers representing different groups 
and parties and place yourself at their disposal and let them then 
choose whomsoever they like as President, offering to give your 
whole-hearted co-operation to the President and Board of their 
choice. I know that this requires self-abnegation. If I know you 
well, I know that this is not beyond you. Of course if you feel 
that there is nothing in the complaints made and that you will be 
able to smooth down all the difficulties and that you will be able 
to bring all the parties together, I have nothing to say. In making 
the suggestions that I have made I assumed the impossibility of 


76 



THE HARIJANS 


securing the association of all parties with the Board as it is con¬ 
stituted at present. I have now placed the whole thing before 
you. You will do whatever is best in the interest of the cause. 

Syt. Khaitan gave me your message about Vasanti Devi, I 
told him that I wanted her to make her own choice, but wanted 
her to work effectively and ceaselessly in the cause of Anti-Un- 
touchability. I am not enamoured of her accepting any office in 
any organisation. When I was there at the time of the Desh- 
bandhu collections, both she and I came to the conclusion that her 
job was not to run any organisation but simply to work whenever 
she was free and had the mind for it. 

Yours sincerely, 

M. K. Gandhi 

Here is Dr. Roy’s reply:— 

36, Wellington Street, 
Calcutta, 12th Dec., ' 32 . 

My dear Mahatmaji, 

Your letter reached me yesterday. I heard from Mr. Khaitan 
the details of the discussion he had with you regarding the Bengal 
Anti-Untouchabilitv Board. You told him that you were going 
to write to me. After hearing Mr. Khaitan, I was prepared for 
a letter from you such as you have sent me. Before I proceed 
further, you will allow me to mention that the position of the 
Presidentship of the Bengal Board was not of my seeking and I 
now know that Mr. Birla had, after consultation with you and 
with your approval, selected me as President. When the call 
came, I agreed, in spite of my imperfections and my other pre¬ 
occupations. I do not forget also that the whole scheme originated 
with you and friends who met at Poona and, therefore, when 
these friends wanted me to do so, I accepted the responsibility. 
You asked me to be the President because you were then con¬ 
vinced that I could do the work. Now that you do not feel so 
sure and want me to withdraw, I gladly do so. I am writing to 
Mr. Birla today offering my resignation. It is no matter of self- 
abnegation for me, because I have never in my life occupied any 
place or position for a moment when those who have it in their 
gift desired that I should not continue to do so. 

You have, in your letter, suggested that I should call all 
workers representing different groups and parties and let them 
choose whomsoever they like as president. May I point out to 


77 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

you that under the constitution of the League, the President of 
the Central Board nominates the Presidents of the Provincial 
Boards, who in their turn nominate the members of the Provincial 
Boards. I have no power to dissolve the Board already formed 
in Bengal. It is not, therefore, possible for me to follow your 
instructions even if I desired to, but I am referring the whole 
matter to Mr. Birla, the President of the All-India Board for 
him to take such action as he chooses. 

You say in your letter: ‘But I see that the idea has not found 
favour in Bengal.’ I feel it my duty to inform you that in Bengal 
there are many parties and groups, besides those led by Syt. Satish 
Das Gupta and Dr. Suresh Banerji, who are interested in removal 
of untouchability and who are doing very valuable work now. 
We framed the Bengal Board very carefully and as Syt. Debi 
Prasad Khaitan must have told you, the Board was representa¬ 
tive of the various groups. Many of the district bodies already in 
existence have written to us signifying their desire to co-operate 
with the Board and in fact, we have had no refusal except, as 
Syt. Khaitan told you, from Messrs. Das Gupta and Banerji, 
though each had different reasons. As you, however, seem to 
think that in Bengal a Board cannot function effectively unless 
with the co-operation of Syt. Das Gupta and Dr. Banerji, which 
they have refused to give, there is no option left but to dissolve 
the Board. 

As the work of the League has already begun in Bengal, it 
would be difficult for me and the members of my Board to ex¬ 
plain the position unless I get your permission to send this letter 
and the first paragraph of your letter to the Press. I hope you 
have no objection. 

Yours sincerely, 

B. C. Roy 

Filled with remorse, Gandhiji immediately wrote as 
follows:— 

Yeravada Central Prison, 
15th December, 1932. 

Dear Dr. Bidhan, 

Your letter stuns me. I sent you a telegram immediately I 
read it. I had thought that we were so near each other that you 
could never misunderstand a friendly letter from me. But I see 


78 


THE HARIJANS 


that I committed a grave blunder. I ought not to have written 
that letter. I have therefore unreservedly and unconditionally 
withdrawn it. That letter being withdrawn, you need not take 
any of the steps adumbrated in your letter. Do please, therefore, 
go on with the Board as if I had never written anything to you. 
The mental hurt that I have caused you, you will generously 
forget. I shall not easily forgive myself for writing that letter 
to you. Someone had suggested, I cannot recall who, that you 
might misunderstand my letter and I foolishly said that you would 
never misunderstand anything I wrote to you. Pride goeth before 
destruction, and vanity before a fall. After these amends, I 
hardly think you need to publish the correspondence between us. 
But if, for the sake of the cause, you think it necessary to publish 
it, you have my permission, in so far as it may be necessary. 

Please tell me how Kamala and Dr. Alam* are doing, and 
ask Kamala to write to me. 

Yours sincerely, 

M. K. Gandhi 

* Kamala Nehru (wife of Jawaharlal Nehru) and Dr. Alam (the great 
nationalist of the Punjab, a friend of Gandhiji and a member of the 
Congress Working Committee) were both under medical treatment 
by Dr. B. C. Roy in Calcutta. 

He also wrote to me on the same day:— 

Yeravada Central Prison, 
15th December, 1932. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

I have sent you a telegram today about the name of the 
League, and another about the Bengal Provincial Organisation 
will go tomorrow. 

First, about the name, I enclose herewith Rajaji’s letter. I 
think that his argument is conclusive, and if it is at all possible to 
adopt his suggestion, you will alter the name accordingly. I was 
so possessed with the idea of service that I missed the implication 
to which Rajaji draws pointed attention. 

Now, as to the Bengal organisation, I fear that I have com¬ 
mitted a grievous blunder. I overrated my influence with 
Dr. Bidhan. I am sorry because I have given him pain; and I 
am sorry because I have placed you in an awkward position. He 

79 


/ 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

will survive the pain ; you will surmount all awkward difficulty ; 
I shall not easily forget my folly. 

I have sent Dr. Roy the following telegram :— 

‘Your unsigned letter received today. Correspondence not meant 
for publication. Have told you distinctly if you feel confident 
you should continue work already begun. Accept my apology 
for what I now recognise was undue interference and what I had 
meant to be friendly suggestion. Please therefore treat my letter 
as absolutely withdrawn—Gandhi/ and I enclose herewith a copy 
of the letter I am sending him. I do not need to add anything 
more. I hope that the incident will close without causing much 
worry to you. I enclose also a copy of Dr. Bidhan’s reply. 

I have received your letter of the 12th December. The 
definition that Syt. Thakkar has sent you has been further altered 
by me. I enclose a copy of the altered definition. Pandit Kunzru 
had sent me the definition that Syt. Thakkar has sent you. I 
made alterations and sent him the altered copy. I see that Syt. 
Thakkar had not received the altered copy when he wrote to you. 

I met about seven friends and followers of Dr. Ambedkar to¬ 
day. They complained or stated (because they said they did not 
wish to complain but merely to make a statement) that Dr. Ambed- 
kar’s letter to Syt. Thakkar written on board the steamer making 
certain suggestions was not mentioned during the meeting of the 
Board in Poona. I told them I did not know that it was not 
mentioned, but I told them also that the letter could not have 
been passed by and it must have been considered by the Board. 
You will now please write to them or me as to what was exactly 
done in connection with that letter. 

These friends also stated that our organisations were keeping 
up the split amongst the Harijans and wherever possible favour¬ 
ing Rajah’s* party. I assured them that such could never be 
your intention, that the endeavour of the Board would be to steer 
clear of party divisions, and that the endeavour of the Board and 
its Branches everywhere would be to cement the relations between 
the two parties for which, now that the political part of the 
question was settled, there was absolutely no need. 

Although I have got additional assistance in the shape of 
Syt. Chhaganlal H. Joshi, and also an efficient shorthand assis- 

* Mr. Rajah was the Government nominee, representing the ‘Untouch¬ 
ables’ in the Legislative Assembly. 


80 


THE HARIJANS 


tant, I can have no leisure. This much-needed assistance enables 
me to keep abreast with the growing work. Interviews take up 
a great deal of time, but they are all necessary. I do not there¬ 
fore grudge them. 

I hope you are keeping fit. You must do something that 
would induce sound sleep, not by way of drugs, but through 
natural means or dietetic changes. Have you tried the prunes in 
the manner I suggested? Some of the easy asans and deep 
breathing, which is what pranayam for health means, might assist 
digestion and induce sleep. 

Yours sincerely, 
Bapu 

PS.—Since dictating the above letter, I have received the follow¬ 
ing telegram from Dr. Bidhan :— 

‘Thanks for telegram respectfully submit do not understand 
what you mean by feeling confident. As explained in letter in 
view of present enthusiasm in Bengal any President and Board 
can perform Anti-untouchability work. If however you mean 
confidence in obtaining co-operation from those who refuse it 
when offered no one can ensure it. Measure of success will 
depend on funds and proper utilisation thereof. Please wire 
whether I and Board can rely on your full support if we continue 
—Bidhanroy’ 

To which I have sent the following reply :— 

‘Thanks your wire ; by confidence I mean self-confidence ; 
of course you can rely upon such assistance as is within my 
power—Gandhi—16-12-32. 

About this time Rajaji sent a characteristic note about 
the name of the Society:— 

Extract from letter dated 12-10-32 from Syt. C. Rajagopalachariar, 

Calicut. 

I do not quite like the change of name you have agreed to 
for the League. ‘Servant of Untouchable Society’ is good in itself, 
but it means a continued recognition of untouchables as such. 
‘Servants of India’ or ‘Servants of Bhils’ or ‘Servants of God’ are 
all right because ‘India’ must be there, ‘Bhils’ is a race name and 
not a name implying inferiority, and ‘God’ is always there. But 
‘Servants of Untouchables’ or ‘Servants of Slaves’ would not be 
right if we intend to abolish untouchability or slavery. Suppose 


6 


81 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

the American abolitionists had a league called ‘Servants or Helpers 
of Slaves’. It would not have expressed the object. Of course 
the Society may close down when the institution of slavery or of 
untouchability is abolished. But the argument is not right, for 
it is the abolition in the psychology of men that is wanted at 
once. You would have to say ‘Servants of Untouchables so- 
called’ which is cumbrous and in reality open to the same objec¬ 
tion. I would have liked ‘Untouchability Abolition League’ or 
(Society). As a matter of fact, I did not like ‘Anti-Untoucha- 
bility’ as a phrase. It is so barbarous. ‘Untouchability Aboli¬ 
tion Society’ would be further a literal rendering of the names 
already in use in Hindi, Gujrati and other Indian languages with¬ 
out any objection. It is really abolition of a slave status and 
the phrase Abolition would be suggestive and emphatic, as pro¬ 
hibition has come to stay in connection with drinks and drugs. 
Service to a group of men is not really the object and aim, if 
we think about it. It is really the doing away with the evil. 
There is a school of thought which would keep the segregation, 
and asks us to do all we can to make them live and eat more 
comfortably. This is not all we want to do. 

I carried on the correspondence in the following letter:— 

21st December, 1932. 

My dear Bapu, 

I have your typed letter with its enclosures. Dr. Roy had 
already sent to me a copy of his letter to you, and now with your 
reply to the same I have got the full correspondence with me. 
I should not like to waste your time over this matter any more, 
yet I cannot resist my inclination to write as I feel your mistake 
was somewhat of a different nature from the one as understood 
by you. There is no question of my being placed in an awkward 
position. If you put me even in a more awkward position, you 
can do so with pleasure. But even now I do not agree with you 
that your mistake was confined to overrating your influence with 
Dr. Bidhan. In fairness to Dr. Roy, I must say that he could 
not have helped feeling hurt. To my mind, the mistake lay in 
the fact that Suresh Babu and Satish Babu being more closely 
associated with you, you should have helped Dr. Roy in securing 
the former’s co-operation instead of asking the latter to resign 
simply because your nearest friends would not give their co-opera- 


82 



THE HARIJANS 


tion to Dr. Roy. I may admit that Suresh Babu and Satish Babu 
had good reason to withhold their co-operation, yet I think you 
should not have chosen Dr. Roy for sacrifice. This, in my opi¬ 
nion, was your mistake. And I felt surprised when I saw your 
first letter to Dr. Roy, as constitutionally you are almost incapable 
of making such mistakes. We are so much dazzled with your 
superhuman personality that we have almost lost self-confidence 
in ourselves. The result is that whenever I feel doubtful about 
your actions I console myself with an explanation that the fault 
may be with my own capacity to understand the implication of 
your decision. So it was in this case. I still feel that in your 
last reply to Dr. Roy you should not have rebuked him, if I 
may use the word, for misunderstanding your letter. I hope I 
am not wasting your time. I am writing all this for my personal 
satisfaction and you may write to me if you think it at all neces¬ 
sary to do so. 

As regards the definition, as you know in such matters I 
worry little. But your latest definition seems to be the best of 
all those discussed previously. As regards the complaint of 
Dr. Ambedkar’s friends that we did not give serious consideration 
to the Doctor’s letter, I think it is made under some misappre¬ 
hension. Like Dr. Ambedkar’s suggestion, there were many 
other suggestions before us which required to be considered and 
embodied in the Blue Pamphlet. But we decided not to discuss 
the Blue Pamphlet at all in such a big meeting and therefore 
appointed a small committee of three to discuss and revise the 
Blue Pamphlet in the light not only of suggestions by Dr. Ambed- 
kar but of many other criticism which may be received from the 
Provincial Boards and other members. But I confess that our 
Secretariat is not so efficient as it ought to be. Poor old Thakkar 
is wandering from place to place and in the absence of a capable 
Secretary at the Head Office the work is, undoubtedly, suffering. 
Before we started this Society, Devidas had promised to help 
me, but he seems to be occupied with other work. In fact I 
made a grievance of it to him when I met him yesterday. But 
he has promised to get me a good man. As it is, I told him 
the work must suffer. I myself can get a good man, but you 
know, my getting a good man means payment of so much money. 
I can get a man only on the market value. What is required 
in such Societies is a man who wants to undergo self-sacrifice. 


83 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

I wonder, therefore, whether you could help me. If he can take 
charge of the work Devidas can do wonders, but unfortunately he 
is not coming. 

We are issuing the Journal about the beginning of January 
and I am expecting a contribution from you. (I have got it just 
now.) Viyogi Hari has been appointed to edit the Hindi Journal. 
I do not have a good man just now to look after the English 
Journal and so I am utilising our office staff to do the work. 
But as you will realise all this requires the services of a good 
secretary and I must have one. 

About the name of the Society, I am afraid it would look 
ridiculous to change it for the third time. Rajaji’s letter although 
it impressed you so much did not make an impression on me. 
But probably it is due to the fact that I look upon all these things 
with some indifference. 

I hope you are quite fit. 

Please do not worry about my health. I am just all right. 
I have not tried the prunes. I propose to do so. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghamshyamdas 

As will be seen from the above, we were then just starting 
the weekly newspaper, The Harijan, which Gandhiji him¬ 
self edited and made famous. There were a number of 
obstacles and delays at the time of its launching:— 

27th December, 1932. 

My dear Bapu, 

I have received both your articles. Unfortunately there is 
likely to be a small hitch in the publication of the first issue as 
we have not yet been able to get permission from the Govern¬ 
ment. A number of minor formalities have to be gone through, 
and the authorities are making enquiries. I hope it will not be 
delayed for more than a week. 

As regards your fast, I hope you will decide to postpone it 
until we hear definitely from the Government. I have not the 
least doubt in my mind that the Government are not going to 
withhold their assent. As to whether they will announce their 
decision before the 2nd of January or after, it is difficult for 
me to say. But if you communicate direct with them, they 
will be able to tell you. Once Government give permission for 


84 


THE HARIJANS 


the introduction of the Bill, the rest will be easier. I have not 
yet seen the copy of the Bill, but I hope you have seen it and 
approve of the same. If the Bill is of a mere permissive nature 
it would not be sufficient, because then again the matter will have 
to rest on the sweet will of Zamorin. Something more, therefore, 
will be necessary. 

I have asked Rajaji to come and see you with friends and 
probably they will be seeing you shortly. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 
Yeravada Central Prison, 
29th December, 1932. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

I have your letter. The dazzle of my presence is really a 
greater embarrassment to me than to friends like you, and I wish 
we could work and discuss things as equals. I do not at all 
like that any special importance be given to what I say in com¬ 
parison with some other persons who may happen to say the 
same thing. With this preface I must say that I wholly dissent 
from your diagnosis. If I had written a similar letter, say, for 
instance, to you, I do not think that you would have resented it. 
In other words, I would not have overrated my influence with 
you. How could I help Dr. Roy in securing the co-operation of 
Suresh Babu and Satish when I knew that such a thing was 
not possible, unless I simply coerced them into giving mechanical 
co-operation even between Suresh Babu and Satish Babu. Even 
in the Ashram, where I may be said to have equal influence with 
all, there are incompatible temperaments where I cannot look 
for co-operation, much less can I impose it; and inasmuch as I 
believed that Suresh Babu and Satish Babu were more effective 
people as plodders, I naturally desired the work to be in their 
hands, and I thought that Dr. Roy would appreciate my sugges¬ 
tion. Why should any one feel hurt if a burden is shifted from 
his shoulders and put on to another, considered more capable of 
carrying it ? And I, as it now turns out, erroneously thought that 
Dr. Bidhan would not misconstrue my letter, take it in good light, 
and contest, if he disliked, the underlying assumption, but never 
resent the letter. Any way why do you say that I have rebuked 
Dr. Roy in my second letter ? I think I have put the position 
fairly but if you have not followed it, you may read it over 


/ 


85 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

again. I would like you to understand the motive underlying the 
second letter. I shall try to find you a good secretary who will 
work for the love of it. 

I would warn you against issuing the English edition unless 
it is properly got up, contains readable English material and 
translations are all accurate. It would be much better to be 
satisfied with the Hindi edition only than to have an indifferently 
edited English weekly. 

Of course, I know that there is no question of partiality, 
but it is as well to bear in mind how Dr. Ambedkar’s people 
feel about all we do. 

Yours sincerely, 

Bapu 

The Temple Entry Bill quickly followed:— 

Yeravada Central Prison, 

1st January, 1933. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

I have your letter of 27th ultimo. I had seen the Bill. It 
is not permissive in the sense you have evidently imagined. It 
is permissive in the sense that the Bill does not declare all temples 
automatically open. But individual temples can be opened by 
the vote of the majority of the temple-goers, not at the will of 
the trustees. 

I hope that your confidence about the assent will be justified 
by the event. Rajaji was here for 3 days, and we had long 
discussions about the Bill and the situation in Guruvayur in 
general. 

I hope the formalities about the publication of the Weekly 
have been completed. 

Bapu 

2nd January, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

I have your letters of the 27th and 28th received in the 
same envelope. I confess I do not quite follow your argument. 
But I see that there is some force in what you say. I have no 
desire, however, to waste your time. I will wait until we meet. 
In fact, there were a number of other points which I would have 
discussed merely for my own satisfaction during my last visit to 


86 


THE HARIJANS 


Poona. But finding you so busy I deliberately refrained. You 
mention in your letter having enclosed a copy of Roy’s letter 
which I do not find. 

I note what you say about the English edition and I will 
be careful as regards the selection of the man who takes charge. 

As regards the postponement of your fast, in a way I am 
relieved. But that does not mean that we are going to slacken 
our efforts. The Viceroy’s assent, I have not the least doubt, 
will be forthcoming at least before the 15th and I hope that 
you are satisfied with the nature of the Bill which is being intro¬ 
duced. As I discussed with you in Poona, do you think now 
we should take up the Question of Vishwanath temple in Kashi ? 
There is no likelihood of the temple being thrown open in the 
near future. But we can at least start Zone propaganda. I hope 
you will approve of the same. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

4th January, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

The Hindi Paper will come out shortly. But it will take 
some time before we start the English edition. 

I have been thinking about what to call the English edition, 
and so far I have not been able to hit upon some happy word. 
1 wonder what you would, think if we call it Prayashchitta* 
As this word gives some indication of the object which we have 
at heart, I thought you might like it. 

Please let me know, if possible by wire, if you approve of 
this name or if you can suggest some other. 

Yours affectionately, 

* penance Ghanshyamdas 

6th January, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

I enclose herewith a letter which speaks for itself. 1 wonder 
whether you know much about the writer of this letter. I do 
not know how his services could be utilised, but probably you 
may be able to guide the writer of the letter himself. 

Kasturbhai has sent Rs. 5,000 and I have written to 
Chinubhai asking him to pay a similar sum. So far there has 


87 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

been no difficulty about finance. We have to remit to the pro¬ 
vinces only when they all raise a portion of their expenditure and 
as provinces are slow in raising finance our contribution is auto¬ 
matically reduced. This does not mean, however, that the work 
is suffering in any way. In fact, your spirit is working wonder¬ 
fully in every nook and comer of the country and, therefore, the* 
cause is advancing without much effort on our part. I have, 
however, the consolation of feeling that I am associated with it. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

7th January, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

I have your letter of the 3rd with its two enclosures, one 
letter from Ramananda Sanyasi and the other from Ganeshilal 
Mistri. I will write to you again after making full enquiries 
about the latter. But in short I can tell you that Delhi is suffer¬ 
ing very much from party politics and hence the trouble. 

To take the case of Ramananda Sanyasi, it is correct that 
Raghumal Charity Trust has stopped a monthly contribution to 
his institution. They would have stopped it in any case, because 
they had been paying for the last 18 months (if my memory 
serves me right) continuously. But even if they had not stopped 
the contribution, I think the affairs of this institution now require 
a little more scrutiny. 

There are two factions among the Arya Samajists in Delhi 
and both are fighting in a most scandalous manner. Ramananda 
Sanyasi’s institution has recently been captured by one faction 
and a lot of energy is being wasted in mud-flinging. I, therefore, 
would be chary of financing these institutions under the present 
circumstances. When Ramananda Sanyasi comes out of jail, I 
will have a talk with him. 

When I formed a board here, I consulted Lala Shriram, 
Deshbandhu Gupta and Pandit Indra. There was such a rush on 
the part of members of the depressed class to get onto the board 
that although we took a large number of members from both 
the parties of the depressed class nothing could satisfy one of the 
two parties. At one time we were threatened with resignations. 
But eventually, so far as I understand, the resignations were 
withdrawn. There was a similar rush from the caste Hindus and 
the result is that the local Board consists of about 50 members.' 


88 


THE HARIJANS 


Like the Arya Samaj, the depressed class is also suffering from 
party politics. There is no such thing as a Raja Party or an 
Ambedkar Party in Delhi. The choice of the leadership is made 
after a party has been created on account of local jealousies. It 
is, therefore, almost impossible to conclude a satisfactory arrange¬ 
ment. All the same I am asking Pandit Indra to explain to you 
matters more fully, he being more acquainted with the local 
condition. 

Recently a Co-operative Society has been formed here to 
help the shoe industry. The Government officials are also taking 
interest in it. To me it seems to be a genuine effort to help, 
and so I have promised a loan of Rs. 5,000 to the Co-operative 
Bank at low interest. But I find that this Bank again is confined 
only to one party, the other party is not satisfied with it, and 
therefore another co-operative bank for the benefit of the other 
party is proposed to be established. So the work is carried on 
in such a dirty atmosphere. 

However, as I have said above, Pandit Indra will write to 
you more fully on these matters. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

Yeravada Central Prison, 

8 th January, 1933. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

In reply to your letter of the 4th I sent you a telegram 
yesterday. I have revived my suggestion that the English edition 
at least should be published in Poona, and it can be published, 
not simultaneously with the Hindi, but on Fridays, if the'Hindi 
is published on Mondays. The English edition may then be issued 
under my supervision, and would take in as much as may be 
necessary from the Hindi edition. All the facts and figures, 
reports and the like will be taken from the Hindi edition, and 
there will be original things also in it. In that case, you need 
not send anybody from there, if there is no one available. I 
think I shall be able to get a local man, or more, to do the work. 

I discussed this thing with Syt. Thakkar yesterday and he 
approves of the idea. I then suggested that he should discuss it 
with you, but he said it would cause delay and that therefore I 
should convey my views to you by post. If you really approve 


89 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

of the idea, you may pursue it further, and may even come 
down here, if you think it necessary to discuss it. For this pur¬ 
pose you need not delay the Hindi edition. The English can 
come a week or two later. 

I enclose herewith a telegram and a letter received from Lala 
Sham Lai. I enclose also a copy of my reply. 

Yours sincerely, 
Bapu 

10th January, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

As you will see from this letter I have come to Gwalior on 
business and purpose to stay here for about a fortnight. Before 
I left I sent a message to Pandit Indra to write to you about 
Ganeshilal at greater length. I am afraid, you will be getting 
complaints of this kind in larger numbers in future. The reason 
is that, specially among educated Harijans, hopes have been raised 
which can under no circumstances be fulfilled. Many educated 
Harijans seem to be under the impression that this Society of 
ours is going to create a millennium. Any man who is not 
employed expects employment from us. Any trader in financial 
difficulty expects us to relieve him of his troubles. When I was 
at Poona a batch of Harijan students came to see me and 1 told 
them that they should not expect too much from us because even 
if we were fortunate enough to collect 6 crores and spend them 
in a year, it would mean only one rupee per annum per Harijan. 
The resources, therefore, are very meagre and they ought to ap¬ 
preciate this. Unfortunately, it will not be possible for them to 
appreciate it, and so such heart-burning and complaints are bound 
to pour in more and more during the course of time. 

So far, however, as the question of a change of heart is con¬ 
cerned, we are making rapid progress and it is entirely due to your 
spirit, with which the atmosphere is so much surcharged. 

As regards the name of the English edition, if we are to 
publish it in Delhi, we cannot have the same name for both as 
this is likely to cause administrative difficulties. If, however, it 
is issued from Poona this difficulty would not arise. So far I 
have not been able to get a good man to edit the English edition. 
But if you can manage it at Poona, I will be relieved of my res¬ 
ponsibilities. Of course, I would not like you to undertake an 


90 


THE HARIJANS 


extra burden but if you think that Poona is a better place, I 
personally have no objection. The decision rests entirely with 
you. But if I can be of any help to you at Poona, kindly utilise 
my service to the full extent. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

Yeravada Central Prison, 
11th January, 1933. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

I have your doleful letter of the 7th January, but you are not 
going to be disappointed or discouraged. What you describe is 
the common lot of most organisations. The best in a man, as 
also the worst, is drawn out when he is in charge of such orga¬ 
nisations. The best is drawn out when he works with sufficient 
detachment. 

Yours sincerely, 
Bapu 


( 



# 


CHAPTER VIII 

BIRTH OF A MAGAZINE 

14 th January, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, « 

As regards the English edition of the Harijan I have already 
written to you and I have nothing more to add. I hope you are 
already making arrangements to issue the same from Poona. 
We can send Shyamlal from Delhi if you want him there. Other¬ 
wise his services could be utilized in Delhi itself. 

As regards the correspondence between you and Lala 
Shyamlal, before they wrote to you, Thakurdas Bhargava had ap¬ 
proached me for a donation from our Society. I told him that 
their work was not mainly for the benefit of the untouchables and, 
therefore, I could not pay anything from the Society. Of course 
I paid him Rs. 1100 from my own pocket. But I told him at 
the same time that in case something was done specially for the 
Harijans, they could approach the Provincial Board and we may 
give some grant to the Provincial Board specially for this pur¬ 
pose. My own impression is that this work is not primarily for 
the benefit of the Harijans. The name of Harijan is unnecessarily 
exploited, of course for a good cause. But even for a good cause, 
one should not exceed certain boundaries. Your reply, there¬ 
fore, is very appropriate. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

17th January, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

Recently an agitation has been set up in Bengal by a few 
interested persons against the Poona Pact. I personally am sure 
in my mind that they generally do not represent the true feelings 
of the Bengali caste Hindus. Most of the Congressmen are out 
of it. I hope you remember that Dr. Moonje granted an inter¬ 
view just before you began your fast stating that the Hindus would 
be prepared to give up voluntarily even cent per cent of their por¬ 
tion of the seats for the benefit of the depressed classes if it comes 
to that. The interview was granted under my persuasion. But 
this was after consulting Mr. Ramananda Chatterjee. It is not, 


92 


BIRTH OF A MAGAZINE 


therefore, altogether correct to say that no important Bengali was 
consulted in this matter. Ramananda Babu now, I understand, 
grumbles against the Poona Pact. Panditji issued an invitation to 
all the important men of Bengal, but they had no time to come! 

I do not think it would be advisable for me to participate in 
this controversy. This is a very delicate matter and it is better 
for a non-Bengali to keep himself aloof. But I wonder whether 
you would not like to write to Dr. Roy and Mr. J. C. Gupta. Do 
you also want me to say anything publicly? I have already written 
to Dr. Roy. 

I have just received your letter of the 11th January in which 
you have mentioned Jamnalalji’s views about the Blue Pamphlet. 
Yes, the resolution is not complete and it was brogght to my 
notice first of all by Devadas. In fact, this particular portion of 
the pamphlet was written out by me and I had asked Mr. Thakkar 
to put in the relevant resolution. Although the omission was a 
mistake on his part, I myself am equally responsible. This again 
compels me to make a confession about the inefficiency of our 
Secretariat. To some extent this mistake was natural inasmuch 
as most of the papers omitted this particular portion of the resolu¬ 
tion. Devadas and I discussed it at Poona and we were both 
puzzled how this particular portion of the resolution was omitted 
by Bombay papers. This has been a mystery to me all along. 
But we decided that at the time of the revision of the pamphlet 
this omission would be rectified. 

About the other points raised by Jamnalalji, they require 
a little more consideration and we will keep them before us when 
we revise the Blue Pamphlet. I agree with him that there is 
nothing in the resolution authorising the League to change its 
name, but I do not know why so much importance should be 
attached to these small technical matters. The resolution was not 
exhaustive enough and a lot of powers have been created by 
ourselves for which there was no sanction but which were neces¬ 
sary under the existing circumstances. Of course we are going 
to register the body. 

As regards the Treasurer, I have appointed the Secretary 
of my mills to act as Treasurer. The office being in my mills it is 
convenient to draw cheques from banks during my absence. 

As regards Jamnalalji’s suggestion about Mr. Tambekar I do 
not think he would come to work in the Society when he is getting 


93 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

a decent pay in the Hindu University. I myself have begun to feel 
a great necessity for a good Secretary and I have already written 
to you about the same. If you cannot find a good man then I 
will have to appoint some one of my own choice. I hope you know 
that I am not giving my undivided attention to this work. This 
is natural under the present circumstances. I am still in business 
and am giving a good deal of my time to it. These days I have 
to give a little more of my time to my mills because they are simply 
glutted with stocks. When they were earning I did not 
devote so much time. But now that they are losing I have natural¬ 
ly to give a good portion of my time to them. I have written 
all this just to acquaint you with the facts. But in any case the 
services of a good Secretary are essential. I myself would like to 
give more time to the work of the Society, but circumstances just 
now do not allow me to give undivided attention. 

I would not say that we are receiving complete statistics from 
our Provincial Boards as regards the opening of temples and 
wells, etc. But we are receiving fortnightly reports from every 
province and I believe they are giving us as much information 
as it is possible for them to give. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

Yeravada Central Prison, 
17th January, 1933. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

I have your letter of the 10th instant from Gwalior. I am 
meeting Syts. Deodhar and Vazhe tomorrow (Wednesday) about 
the English edition of the Harijan Sevak. I have already had a 
preliminary conversation with Vazhe since the receipt of your 
letter. It seems there will be no difficulty about publishing the 
paper here. But I shall do nothing in a hurry. I will send you 
the fullest information before actually embarking on the enterprise. 

What is this opposition in Bengal against the Yeravada Pact? 
I am writing also to Dr. Bidhan enquiring about it. 

I note what you say about the effect of prunes. Have you 
tried them at all? 

I 

Yours sincerely, 

Bapu 


94 


BIRTH OF A MAGAZINE 

Yeravada Central Prison,, 
19 th January, 1933. 

My dear Ghanshyamdai;, 

I have your letter cl 14th instant. I had a prolonged con¬ 
versation with Syts. Deodhar and Vazhe yesterday regarding the 
English' edition, and as^'a result I have telegraphed to Amritlal 
Thakkar to send Shastri at once if he could be spared. Vazhe tells 
me that Shastri is the fittest man for doing the editorial work. He 
himself will help but cannot be completely identified with the 
paper. I can appreciate his reason. But both told me that 
though Shastri had applied to the Society for admission as a 
probationer, the Society would have no objection to Shastri taking 
up the editorial responsibility. Of course, so long as Mahadev 
and I have the time, the columns will be filled by us, and Shastri 
will carry out instructions, and in time to come write original 
articles himself. 

I wonder when the Hindi edition will be out. 

Yours sincerely, 

Bapu 

Yeravada Central Prison,, 
21st January, 1933. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

I have your letter. I do not want you to come out with 
any public statement on the Bengal question; as you have noticed, 
I am not making any public statement myself, and I have anti¬ 
cipated you by copying you, that is by writing to Dr. Bidhan and 
Ramananda Babu. I am not waiting to Syt. J. C. Gupta, nor is 
it necessary for me to do so. I may have met him, but I cannot 
say that I am even acquainted with him. 

Please do not wait for the revision of the pamphlet till the 
present copies are exhausted. You can do one or the other thing, 
either issue a revised pamphlet suppressing the old copies, or 
paste the full resolution on the imperfect resolution in the existing 
copies, and send a public circular to the effect that by an oversight 
an incomplete resolution was printed in the pamphlet, giving the 
correct full text. 

I quite understand that you have to look after your own 
business also, with more concentration today than before. 

What is the hitch in getting Harijan Sevak out ? 


95 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

The news about your health is disturbing. Why not have 
the necessary operation, if a reliable doctor advises it? I have 
learnt by experience that even dietetics ar*d fasts have their limita¬ 
tions. They do not always answer. And whatever rest is neces¬ 
sary, you ought to impose on yourselL. Dilatoriness in these 
matters should be regarded as sinful. 

Yours sincerely, 
Bapu 

21st January, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

The Government’s decision* should have come to me as a 
great surprise. But after having read the various intelligent fore¬ 
casts by a number of news agencies, I was fully prepared for it. 
I find neither logic nor fairness in the Government’s decision. I 
am now waiting to see what view you are going to take of the 
whole situation. 

The present assembly, as it is composed, is capable of reject¬ 
ing many good things and passing bad ones. In the first place, 
by the dilatory tactics of the Government, I am not sure when 
this legislation will come before the Assembly, and if it comes 
I am also not sure whether it will be passed when it comes before 
the House. We should not, therefore, expect much from 
Mr. Ranga Iyer’s Bill. It would be more appropriate to concen¬ 
trate on private efforts. But in the case of Guruvayur temple, 
private efforts will be of no great value. I, therefore, would like 
to know what you would want us to do. 

In case you approve of Mr. Ranga Iyer’s Bill, I think it will 
require redrafting. As at present drafted it is not likely to meet 
the situation. The language is very vague and probably from a 
legal point of view it is not a good draft. In case you approve 
of its introduction, it will require redrafting in consultation with 
you. I have, therefore, sent you a wire. I hope to hear from 
you by tomorrow. In case you want me to come to Poona, I 
will leave this place immediately for Poona; otherwise I will go 
to Delhi the day after tomorrow. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

* To remain neutral on the Temple Entry Bill. , i 


96 


BIRTH OF A MAGAZINE ~ 

Yeravada Central Prison, 

25 th January, 1933. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

Here is the estimate for the proposed English edition of 
Harijan Sevak. As you can see, it is a very moderate sum. 
There will still be some overhead charges on clerical assistance, 
and whatever remuneration that might have to be paid to Shastri 
who has agreed to edit the paper. 

I propose to bring out, to start with, 10,000 copies. Then 
if there is not that demand, we might slow down. My policy, 
as you know, is that I shall not handle the paper except to make 
it self-supporting. If it does not become self-supporting, I should 
conclude that there is inefficient management or editing, or that 
there is no public demand for such a paper. In any one of these 
cases, if the defect cannot be mended, the paper must be ended. 
I should give the paper a trial for 3 months, within which time 
it must become self-supporting. 

I would therefore like you, after consultation with Thakkar 
Bapa and such others as you need to consult to telegraph your 
sanction of the expenditure, such as it may be, up to the final limit 
to be fixed by you. I suggest an addition of Rs. 200 per month 
at the outside to the figures as per estimate, excluding the postal 
and telegraphic charges. I should be able to give you more 
definite figures after I have seen Shastri. If you can pass the 
Budget, should I proceed with the paper whether you have brought 
out the Hindi edition or not? I understand that there is not 
likely to be any difficulty at this end about bringing out the 
paper. 

I have your telegram from Gwalior about the Government 
decision on the Untouchability Bills. I hope you received my 
reply. I hope, too, that you have read my very exhaustive state¬ 
ment to the Press. I do not need, therefore, to add anything to 
the Press statement, for I have nothing more to add. 

I am sending you a copy of my letter to Hariji about the 
Society receiving or seeking financial assistance from the Govern¬ 
ment. Here again I do not need to add to it. It speaks for 

itself. 

I hope you are better. I would like you to treat your health 


7 


97 




IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

as much of a business concern as any other, and thus not a thing 
to be neglected or wasted. 

Yours sincerely, 

Bapu 

9th February , 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

We have taken stock of the situation and the net result of 
my reading of the situation is that the Bill could be introduced 
with a Select Committee appointed in this session and can be 
passed in the Simla session only if the Government help. If the 
Government obstruct, then of course the Bill may not be intro¬ 
duced even in this session. But from what I see, I hope they 
will at least help the introduction of the Bill in this session ; but 
they would not be prepared to go beyond that. They would 
insist on the Bill being circulated, and although even if it were 
circulated it could be passed in the Simla session, this could 
only happen if the Government gave all the facilities. In the 
absence of their help the Bill has no chance of emerging out of 
the legislature. 

Since I came here, we have had several conferences and the 
most important of them was held last evening and it was decided 
at the conference that prominent M.L.A.s should ask the Govern¬ 
ment to grant special facilities for the discussion of the Bill. A 
letter was drafted last evening and was signed by many prominent 
members. More signatures were to be appended today and I 
hope it is already in the hands of the leader of the House. I am, 
however, not very hopeful about any special facilities being 
granted by the Government. The members themselves do not like 
that the Bill should be rushed through in the present session. 
Most of them agree that it is not necessary to circulate the Bill, 
but at the same time they do not desire that it should be rushed 
through. All they desire is that it should be introduced and put 
into the hands of the Select Committee during this session, and 
be passed at the Simla session. I am not acquainting you with 
all the details of the procedure as I am sure you are already fairly 
well acquainted with the same. But I may just tell you that it 
is possible to do away with the formal introduction part of the 
Bill if the Government would simply publish it in the Gazette. 

98 


/ 


BIRTH OF A MAGAZINE 


One hurdle would be crossed if the Government would help. I 
am afraid, however, that they will not help to this extent. 

We are meeting again tonight with important members and 
we are trying to persuade some of them, who have got Bills stand¬ 
ing in their names for discussion, to withdraw the same and clear 
the field for Mr. Ranga Iyer’s Bill. I trust that most of them will 
be helpful. One or two of them, I am afraid, will not take a help¬ 
ful attitude, but I do not think that will obstruct the formal intro¬ 
duction of the Bill which is likely to come up on the 27th of 
February, unless the Government grant special facilities and pub¬ 
lish the Bill in the Gazette in lieu of its formal introduction. 

Just one thing more. There is a convention in the Assembly 
that a Bill cannot be taken into consideration on the very day of 
its introduction. This means that even if the Bill is introduced 
on the 27th of February, it cannot be taken into consideration 
on the same day. Of course the convention could be waived 
with the consent of the House, the President, and the Government. 
But I do not think all the three parties would agree. In some 
respects even the House itself is very conservative about their 
conventions and I, having been a member of the Assembly for 
four years, fully sympathise with them. 

I propose to go to Calcutta after I feel that there is nothing 
more to be done here and will get my nose attended to as I under¬ 
stand there is no specialist in Delhi who could perform the 
operation. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

(Copy of the letter from Gandhiji to Mr. C. Rajagopalachariar, 
dated 13-2-’3 3.) 

I have read your and Ghanshyamdas’ appeal to the public. 
Why do you even so much as mention the fast and its possibility? 
You surely undermine its spiritual value, if the fast, if at all it 
comes, is to be a spiritual fast. I do not even know that the 
fast is a certainty if the Bills do not pass during this session or 
at all. I do not know when it will come. I think you should all 
dismiss it from your consideration altogether and let the public 
mind work unfettered by it. When it does come, it will produce 
its own effect if it is a spiritual act. If it is the product of a 
diseased or an arrogant mind, it will merely torture the body and 


99 




IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

excite pity or contempt according to the temperament of the 
people who may hear of it. Do take this advice as from an 
expert and act up to it to the fullest extent. 

Then you have seriously to consider Pandit Malaviyaji s atti¬ 
tude. He is thoroughly against the Bills, especially if they are 
not to be circulated. Of course, I do not share this view. I shall 
be writing to him. But you should see him, if you can at all 
spare yourself or send Devadas alone. But on this I have no firm 
opinion. You will do what appeals to you most. You know 
the outside atmosphere first-hand. All my knowledge is second¬ 
hand and therefore worthless. 

I had, what must be described in one way as a very unsatis¬ 
factory interview with Dr. A.* He is irreconcilable. In another 
way it was satisfactory. I know him better than I did. 

Please share this with Ghanshyamdas and Thakkar Bapa. 

Bapu 

* Dr. A. was no doubt Dr. Ambedkar. 

Our two great preoccupations at this time were the Tem¬ 
ple Entry Bill, to enable the Untouchables to worship in 
Hindu temples, and the launching of the weekly paper to 
promote their cause. 

14th February, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

The bill has been balloted for the 27th of February and if 
everything goes well, Mr. Gaya Prashad Singh or Mr. S. C. Mitra 
will introduce it on the same day. But I doubt very much whe¬ 
ther it will at all be introduced. First of all, there are Bills in an 
advanced stage and even if all of them are withdrawn, at least 
Haji Wajiduddin, who has got in his name a Bill to repeal the 
Sarda Act, will not withdraw, and that alone will take the whole 
day. So all in all, the Bill may not be introduced even on the 
27th and as you know merely introducing will serve no good pur¬ 
pose. The Bill could be introduced on the 27th, in spite of other 
Bills in the field, only if the Government would grant special facili¬ 
ties to allow its introduction. 

As I had written to you in my letter, if the Bill is published 
in the Gazette, it could be taken as formally introduced. Mr. 
Ranga Iyer has already written to the Government, but so far 


100 


BIRTH OF A MAGAZINE 


he has received no reply. All that I have heard is that we 
shall get no special facilities. The letter proposed to be sent by 
the M.L.A.s to the Government asking for special facilities has 
now been sent. Only 12 signatures have been appended to it so 
far. 

There is party trouble in the Nationalist Party itself, and 
then there is rivalry between the Nationalists and the Independent 
Party. Efforts are being made to get a similar letter sent by the 
Independent Party. Except the disappointment caused by the 
slow progress of the Bill, in other respects the situation is quite 
satisfactory and the country is moving with rapid progress. 
People are taking more and more interest in the problem of un- 
touchability and I am quite satisfied with the result. 

Pandit Malaviyaji was going to issue a very bad statement 
strongly opposing the introduction of the Bill, but he has been 
persuaded to stop it for the time being. 

The Hindi Harijan is still in the melting pot. C.I.D. people 
are making enquiries about Mr. Gupta whose name we have 
given as Printer and Publisher. They have asked the Nagpur 
Police to send full reports about Mr. Gupta. In spite of our 
best efforts we have not been able to get the matter expedited. 
Mr. Thakkar saw the Deputy Commissioner twice but could not 
do anything to expedite the matter. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

18th February, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

There is nothing important to mention just now. Canvassing 
is going on from both sides and the orthodox are no less busy than 
ourselves. When we got some M.L.A.s to ask the Government 
to grant special facilities the other side also got a number of 
M.L.A.s to object to this course. We have decided now that if 
we are to command a greater measure of support from the 
M.L.A .s we should not try to rush the measure through the House 
and so we have to reconcile ourselves to the circulation course. 
I know you do not agree with this, but personally I feel that 
for all practical purposes there is no difference between the cir¬ 
culation and the appointment of a Select Committee. Even if a 


101 






IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

Select Committee is appointed, nothing could be done before 
the Simla session and even if the Bill is circulated with a specific 
time limit the Select Committee could be appointed in the Simla 
session and the Bill may then be taken into consideration. Thus 
in reconciling ourselves to the circulation course, we are not 
wasting any more time than would be wasted in any case, and 
so we have got the M.L.A.s to ask the Government to give such 
facilities for the introduction of the Bill that at least the Bill 
may be sent out for circulation in this session for eliciting public 
opinion, with a definite proviso that it should be returned to the 
House before the Simla session. I hope you v/ill not find any 
serious objection to this step. 

I have heard that a large fund has been collected by the 
orthodox group. Money is coming from the South and a portion 
thereof from some Marwaris in Calcutta and Bombay and also a 
good portion from the Maharaja of Hathwa. I do not know 
how far this is correct. But it seems substantially to be true. 

I regret that you had to rebuke us both, publicly that is, 
Rajaji* and myself. We have been quarrelling between ourselves 
as to who ought to be blamed for that particular portion. But 
I distinctly remember having told Rajaji not to say anything about 
the fast, of course on different grounds. The interview was 
drafted by Rajaji himself and in the original draft no mention 
was made about your fast. The original sentence referred to 
ourselves having promised to you to act with redoubled energy, 
and assured you of getting the Bill passed during this session, 
or something like this. I said that I could not sign that agree¬ 
ment because I had neither made any promise nor did I think 
I was big enough to make such a promise. Besides, it would 
not be correct to say that I would work with redoubled energy. 
To this it was suggested that we should give at least some indica¬ 
tion to the public as to how far your mind was bent on this Bill, 
and the portion referring to your fast was the outcome of this 
anxiety. I, however, see your point and agree that we should 
not have mentioned anything about it. 

I hope you are keeping quite fit. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

* Mr. C. Rajagopalachariar. 


102 


BIRTH OF A MAGAZINE 

23rd February, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

We had a tea party yesterday at the Western Hotel and 
about 35 M.L.A.s attended. We received a better recep¬ 
tion than we expected. Some of the M.L.A.s, even though 
opposed to the Bills, were quite favourable towards their being 
introduced and circulated for eliciting public opinion. Our 
demand being now very modest, we are receiving more support 
than before. It looks, therefore, as if the first Bill of Mr. Ranga 
Iyer may be introduced on the 27th February and circulated on 
the 24th March. A number of M.L.A.s promised that they 
would see that the other Bills obstructing the way do not take an 
unnecessarily long time and thus hinder the introduction of the • 
Untouchability Bill. The second Bill, that is, the Temple Entry 
Bill, is not due on the 27th February, and I do not think it will 
be introduced on that date. I had a lengthy discussion yesterday 
with Sir Brojendra Mitter and although I reminded him that 
special facilities were given in the case of the Sarda Bill, Sir 
Brojendra told me that the Government would not even think of 
giving special facilities until they were convinced that unless they 
provided some accommodation the Bill was not likely to come 
up before the Assembly. 

There is still a wrongly held notion in official quarters that 
the untouchability work is only a political stunt. This is really 
deplorable, but I am afraid it will take some time before the real 
truth dawns on them. Malaviyaji’s attitude, however, has proved 
at least one thing, that in taking up the untouchability work you 
have alienated the alliance of some of your best political friends. 

Rajaji’s speech last evening at the tea party was very impres¬ 
sive and it was the envy of many M.L.A.s. I too felt at home, 
having met many old friends after a long time and the party was 
thus a great success. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

Benares, 5th March, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

I have come here from Delhi and propose to stay here for 
5 or 6 days more. Then I will go to Calcutta. I had originally 
intended to have my operation performed in Calcutta this 


103 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

time. But I find that I must return to Delhi by the 20th. 
The Bill is coming up on the 24th and I felt that I might be present 
at that time although I do not think much needs to be done now. 
I would, therefore, hardly have a week at my disposal in Calcutta, 
and so this operation is again going to be postponed. 

I had a lengthy discussion with Panditji*. I found that 
Mathurdas had already seen him. As regards the ultimate ideal 
there may be no difference between you and Panditji, but in 
practice you are poles apart. Panditji’s outlook is entirely differ¬ 
ent. He wants to go slowly and is not prepared to displease 
anyone. Therefore, he has to adopt methods which are not 
acceptable to you. 

During the discussion Panditji admitted that there were legal 
difficulties, but would not admit that they could not be overcome 
except through legislation. He went even to the length of saying 
that if he were convinced that there were real legal difficulties, he 
would be prepared to take measures to correct the legal defects 
effectively, either through legislation or through fighting another 
test case. When I suggested that we might have a test case started 
on the issue of Kashi Vishwanath temple, he said that it would 
be impolitic. Panditji believes that your methods are likely to 
cause greater delay in getting the untouchables into the temples. 
In reality, what he wants to do is to avoid a clash with the 
orthodox. 

My interpretation about the Allahabad resolution is confirmed 
by what he says. According to that resolution an untouchable 
cannot enter the Vishwanath temple. 

Before I left Delhi, I tried to ascertain from official quarters 
what chances the Bill had of being introduced on the 24th. They 
assured me that they did not apprehend any hitch. We may, 
therefore, cross the first hurdle on the 24th of March. But I do 
not feel very enthusiastic about its future progress. I do not 
admit that we shall lose any special time by the circulation of 
the Bill, but there are so many other difficulties which you fully 
realise. 

Yours affectionately, 

G HAN SHY AM DAS 

1 1. * Pandit Malaviya. 


104 


BIRTH OF A MAGAZINE 


Birla House, 

Benares, 8th March, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

I have seen your letter of the 2nd March. As regards 
Mr. David’s scheme,* the money will be put in the bank. So 
far We have received a promise for Rs. 1,000 per month, purely 
for scholarships, from the Raghumal Charity Trust. This sum 
is to be paid for a period of twelve months only. However, I 
hope that we shall be able to get this donation renewed after the 
end of this year. This money could easily be utilised for 
Mr. David’s scheme. 

As regards collecting more money for this purpose, I doubt 
whether we can get many promises just now. The reason is that 
whoever wanted to pay has done so already to the various Boards 
of our Society. Now we have not spent much so far and if you 
agree, I would suggest to Them that the Central Board too would 
be prepared to incur a proportionate burden in case they came 
forward to share it with them. But I do not expect any satisfac¬ 
tory response from the Provinces. Therefore, the best course 
would be in my opinion, for the time being, to pay the money 
from the Central Board. Suppose, we paid Rs. 20,000 from the 
Central Board, and a promise for Rs. 12,000 for 1933 from the 
Raghumal Charity Trust is already there, it makes a total of 
Rs. 32,000 and if you write a few personal letters, say, to Ambalal 
and to a few other friends asking them to pay Rs. 2,5001- each, 
I am sure they would respond. I myself would pay a similar sum. 
Thus a decent start could be made. Please, therefore, write to 
me at my Calcutta address what you think of my proposal. 

We have so far collected, including the provinces, a little 
over two lakhs of rupees for the Harijan work. The donors 
drew no distinction whether we approached them for Mr. David’s 
scheme or for the funds of the Central and Provincial Boards. 
They were approached to pay for the Harijan work, and so they 
have paid. I, therefore, do not think it would be desirable for 
us just now to approach the donors again especially for Mr. David’s 
scheme. I will, of course, approach Lala Shriram when I go to 
Delhi and, if you like, you may also write to him personally. 

As regards the Hindi Harijan, I have been taking some 
personal interest in it. As you will notice, I have even been 

* For collecting subscriptions from Caste Hindus to provide higher 
education for Harijans. 


105 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

contributing articles to it. The defects pointed out by you were 
already noticed by me before your letter arrived, and were brought 
to the notice of Hariji. I take it your criticisms are confined to 
the first issue alone. The second issue, in my opinion, was a 
decided improvement, yet I think it requires further brightening 
up and I hope that we will be able to give you more satisfaction 
in future. But please write to me from time to time if you have 
any criticisms to offer. 

As regards my health, just now there is nothing wrong with 
it. The nose is not giving me any special trouble, yet I, too, want 
to attend to it as soon as I find time. But I am afraid, I will 
have to postpone it a little longer. The operation involves fully 
a fortnight’s rest and I cannot undertake it before the 24th of 
March. 

In the postscript you mention a Selection Board. I do not 
quite follow this. Probably it refers to Mr. David’s scheme, but 
I do not remember your exact suggestion. In any case, until I 
go to Delhi I cannot take up the matter. So there it will remain. 
I will reach Delhi on the morning of the 19th and then I will have 
a further talk with Mr. Thakkar. Meanwhile I will await your 
reply at my Calcutta address. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

The Harijan had an immediate success, as the following 
letter reveals. 

Yeravada Central Prison, 

9 th March, 1933. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

The English Harijan has become self-supporting already. 
The subscriptions received to date from street sales and annual 
subscribers leave a balance without the aid of the Rs. 1,044/- 
from the Central Board. This money can, therefore, now be 
refunded. Will you kindly tell me how you would want this 
money to be sent to you ? I understand that you have to pay 
something to the Maharashtra Board. My enquiry as to the 
method of refunding the money is merely with a view to saving 
commission on money order, draft or cheque. 

Arrangements have been made to issue a Gujrati Harijan 
also. It is being issued from Poona. The Bombay Board has 


106 


BIRTH OF A MAGAZINE 


guaranteed the cost for three months in the event of any loss 
being incurred, but I have no such fear. 

Yours sincerely, 
Bapu 

PS.—[In Hindi] : Your letter written from Benares has arrived. 

You have been postponing the operation, which I do not like. 

Calcutta, 16th March, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

I am leaving this place tomorrow for Delhi. I see that you 
are annoyed for my delaying the operation on my nose. But I 
could not help it. There is not a good surgeon in Delhi and I 
could not afford to stay in Calcutta. But I took the opportunity 
of getting myself examined by Dr. Roy and also by a nose specia¬ 
list. The nose specialist recommends an operation, not for the 
deviation of the septum but for a permanent drainage in the 
antrum. In fact both these ooerations have been recommended 
to me by a few specialists. Dr. Roy proposes to try some local 
application for a month or so. In any case I cannot have the 
operation performed until I return from Delhi. 

The work in Calcutta proper is going on satisfactorily so far 
as the constructive side is concerned. About 20 schools are being 
conducted, but all this is being done by some Marwari workers. 
But Satish Babu is working hard. Money is being collected, 
which is being done by Khaitan and some of my other friends. 
I had a long talk with Dr. Roy about the Calcutta bustees (slum 
tenements) and I am taking him this afternoon to show him some 
of the places. I hope he will give more help. It was suggested 
that the work could be more successfully done if Satish Babu 
joined the Board. I have given a hint to Dr. Roy and have left 
it to him to take the next step. 

I have suggested to some of my friends to subscribe to 
Mr. David’s scheme in yearly instalments of Rs. 400/- per year. 
Business is so bad that I have no heart to ask people for money. 
But I hope that some of them will pay. In any case, as I have 
written to you before, we can make a decent beginning with the 
money at our disposal. 

I am glad to hear from you that the English Harijan has 
become self-supporting. I am afraid the Hindi Harijan cannot 
compete unless you give your special blessings in some of the 
articles which you write in the English Harijan. The circulation, 

107 


i 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

of course, is increasing, but I will write in greater detail about it 
when I go to Delhi. 

Yes, we have to pay the Maharashtra Board, but only when 
they themselves collect l/3rd of their budget. I do not think 
they have been able to do much so far. The best way to remit 
money to the Central Board would be to send it to Bombay to 
my firm and they will redirect the same to Delhi. Thus you 
will save the commission. 

I take it that you have seen in the Press that the Bengal 
Council have denounced the Poona Pact. It was not a severe 
defeat. But I did not like the attitude of the Council at all, 
Naturally, I did not like to express any views about this matter 
to the Press. But I feel that something has to be done to coun¬ 
teract the propaganda which is carried on against the Poona Pact 
I am enclosing herewith cuttings from today’s Advance and 
Liberty which will give you an idea of their editorial attitude. 
Satish Babu,* however, tells me that the general public is not 
at all against the Pact. It could be said without exaggerating 
the position that opinion in Bengal is divided. Bidhan Babuf 
himself is not in favour of the Pact and, therefore, no leader of 
importance has said a word so far in favour of it. I had a 
talk this morning with Satish Babu and have asked him to approach 
Sir P. C. Roy and Dr. Tagore. If they agree, then a meeting 
could be held to pass resolutions in favour of the Pact. I am 
going to have a talk with Dr. Roy this afternoon. This is just 
for your information. 

Yours affectionately, 

* Mr. Satish Das Gupta. GHANSHYAMDAS 

t Dr. B- C. Roy. 

It was a hard task collecting funds for our work in the 
Untouchables’ cause. 

21st March, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

I arrived here the day before yesterday and I propose to 
stay here for a few days. The annual session of the Federation 
will be held here about the middle of April. By that time, I 
also hope to be here. 


108 


BIRTH OF A MAGAZINE 


While in Calcutta I took Dr. Bidhan to visit a number of 
bustees inhabited by the Untouchables. There are in all 
600 bustees out of which about 200 have been improved during 
the last few years. They are called improved bustees. They 
have got light, water and a sewer system. It is possible, therefore, 
to put up public latrines in some of these places. But there are 
about 400 bustees where the condition is simply horrible. Some 
of these are across the canal where there is no sewer system. 
The result is that the drainage system in these bustees is terrible. 
Being below the level of the main road every drop of water used 
accumulates. Water taps, in order that water may not accumu¬ 
late, are generally discouraged. Latrines are simply terrible as 
there is no drainage. People commit nuisance in the small by¬ 
lanes which are the only thoroughfares for the huts, and in the 
hot weather it is unbearable. During the rainy season the water 
accumulates knee-deep as there is no outlet. Now the situation 
for such bustees is either the demolition of these bustees altogether 
or the making of a proper drainage system. I was told that in 
order to have the sewer system in the whole area about 50 lakhs 
of rupees would be required which was out of the question. The 
other alternative is to put small pumps in some of these bustees 
to pump out the accumulated water. Anyhow the trouble is not 
easy of solution, and yet it must be solved. Dr. Roy told me 
that he himself felt helpless in the hands of his own bureaucracy 
on the one hand and Councillors on the other. Most of the 
Councillors are interested either directly or indirectly in these 
bustees, and when the question for reform comes up they put 
up opposition. I found Dr. Roy genuinely anxious to do some¬ 
thing. In fact, those bustees which are capable of improvement 
have already been improved and he promised to take the others 
in hand. This is just for your information. 

I saw your article today in the Harijan suggesting improve¬ 
ment in the methods of carrying night-soil. This question was 
discussed by me with Dr. Roy when I was in Calcutta. He told 
me how, when they tried to introduce this system in the Corpora¬ 
tion, they met with strong opposition from the sweepers. The 
reason was that if the night-soil is carried in carts, fewer men 
are required and they immediately put up opposition when they 
heard of this reform. Then there are some Councillors who pose 
as the leaders of the sweepers, and they instigated them to put up 
this opposition. 


109 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

As regards the Hindi Harijan I will write to you further after 
a day or two. I am taking a keen interest in it. I myself wrote 
a few articles in it, but I am not writing any more because I am 
not sure whether you liked or disliked them. I did not like some 
of the translations of your articles. One by R. was, in my opi¬ 
nion, the worst. Please, therefore, do not send your article 
direct to him, unless you yourself like the translation. I should 
like to receive further criticism from you about the paper. 

With reference to Mr. David’s scheme I am really sorry that 
you are not pleased with the results. I know that I took it up 
warmly. But I must confess that I was terribly disillusioned 
in my expectation as regards the finance. I thought people would 
simply be delighted to pay, at least those who have got money. 
But in spite of my efforts in Calcutta I have not been able to go 
above Rs. 50,000. In Delhi I walked from door to door for 
two days and I got only Rs. 1,500/- after great difficulty. One 
big contractor, who is supposed to be a great reformer and a 
Congressman and who has got sufficient money, promised to pay, 
but never paid. I am in daily communication with a number of 
my friends in Cawnpore, and although they write nice letters they 
do not pay. Ahmedabad is also hopeless. In Bombay, four 
Marawari firms, after having promised subscriptions, are withhold¬ 
ing payment. I do not think this is because people do not like the 
work. But everybody wants to evade payment, if it is at all 
possible. I myself can pay anything that you want me to pay, 
but I confess that I cannot bring money from others. After I 
wrote to you I was able to collect Rs. 2,500 more from three 
sources which you may use for Mr. David’s scheme. I suggested 
to a number of friends in Calcutta that they might pay in instal¬ 
ments, but I had no satisfactory response. This, in short, is the 
position as regards fresh collections. But I do not agree with you 
that we should not pay from the Central Funds. I have asked all 
the Boards to submit their accounts showing how much has been 
spent for establishment and how much for other constructive work. 
So I would repeat that you may use Rs. 20,000 for Mr. David’s 
scheme from the Central Fund and Rs. 6,000 from the Raghumal 
Charity Trust Fund. The latter has promised Rs. 12,000, but 
half of it has to be spent in Bengal, of course for scholarships. 
But as Dr. Roy wants to spend on smaller scholarships, the Bengal 
money is not available for Mr. David’s scheme. You will have 


110 


BIRTH OF A MAGAZINE 


thus Rs. 20,000 from the Central Board, Rs. 6,000 from Raghu- 
mal Charity Trust, Rs. 2,500 from myself, Rs. 2,500 from Janaki 
Devi and Rs. 2,500 collected by me recently. Thus it amounts 
to Rs. 33,500. We may be able to collect a little more. But if 
we can begin with Rs. 40,000 it will be a decent sum. After you 
have' made up your mind I will have a talk with Mr. Thakkar 
about the Selection Board. Please write to me again after you 
have carefully considered my suggestion. 

I approached some of my Sanatanist friends in Calcutta. 
But although they talk very politely, they do not pay. 

I hope you are well. My namaskar to Sardar, Mahadev- 
bhai and Jamnalalji. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

Bapu’s next letter began by urging me not to postpone 
an operation. 


Yeravada Central Prison, 

23rd March, 1933. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

I have your letter and the cuttings. Unless you make time 
for the operation I know you will never have the time. This 
always happens with busy people, and, therefore, it is necessary 
to consider matters of health as real matters of business. I do 
not write this as a philosophic truth, but as a practical truth 
which I have enforced in my own life and in that of others. I 
hope, therefore, that you will set apart a month or so for the treat¬ 
ment and make an appointment with a doctor beforehand with 
the fixed resolution of keeping that appointment. 

I note what you say about the work in Calcutta. 

About Mr. David’s scheme I hope to hear from you further. 

I shall certainly write something in the columns of the 
English Harijan about the Hindi edition as soon as I find the 
Hindi to be up to the mark. I have written fully about this to 
Thakkar Bapa, as also to Viyogi Hari. I need not, therefore, 
repeat what I have written to them. You will give to it what 
time it is possible for you to give, and make it brim-full of instruc¬ 
tions and information so that no worker would care to be without 
it 


v 


111 




IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

You suggest that I should send the money due to the Central 
Board to your firm in Bombay. How should I save the com¬ 
mission thereby, unless you have meant that I should send notes 
through someone going to Bombay ? If I do that it would mean 
my having to run some risk of the money being lost. I have not 
that courage. 

As to the denunciation of the Yeravada Pact by the Bengal 
Council, I have not felt much disturbed and I am not quite certain 
that counter-propaganda is necessary at the present moment. In 
no case can the Pact be revised unless all the parties to it agree. 
It will be time enough to apply our minds to the Bengal opposi¬ 
tion when the parties are regularly consulted. I was consulted 
and I have sent my opinion, of which I send you a copy. But 
you and Satish Babu know much better than I what to do in 
Bengal. 

Yours sincerely, 

Bapu 


Three days later he wrote again:— 

26-3-33 . 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

For the present I shall be content to write about a couple 
of things, or may be three. 

The only things we find worth reading in the Hindi Harijan 
are your articles. Your language is both sweet and forceful. 
But this alone will not satisfy me. So long as things are not 
managed there properly, articles will continue to be sent from 
here. Mahadev and I myself will translate, and Viyogiji will 
polish our Hindi. Then there are notices, news, provincial news, 
etc., to be sent on behalf of the Sangh ; this means the sale of 
thousands of copies of the Hindi Harijan. It should, in fact, 
become the official organ of the Sewa Sangh. I have refused to 
send the articles to Ramdasji or to anybody else for translation 
work. The paper cannot be run like this. In case Hindi tran¬ 
slations are not available and Viyogiji cannot do the work himself 
and it is not possible to make any other arrangement, then it is 
better to stop publishing the Hindi edition. 

I find the necessity of greater work in connection with the 
Calcutta business. 

About the David scheme my opinion is that it should be 


112 


BIRTH OF A MAGAZINE 


studied and digested. I shall write in detail. Form examination 
boards. 

Blessings from Bapu 

28th March, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

There are one or two points on which I want your advice. 

When at Benares, I heard of a number of domes * who 
changed their religion some time back, and who, on account of 
the present movement, want to re-enter the fold of Hinduism. 
The local Arya Samajists wanted financial help from the Society 
in order that they could be reclaimed. I personally saw no 
objection to it, so I have promised to help them from my own 
pocket. The question is : should not the Society interest itself 
in such a matter ? If not, why not ? When we refuse to take 
interest in such matters people legitimately criticise us that we 
are too eager to placate others at the expense of Hinduism. I 
think there is much in that charge. I am not in favour of per¬ 
forming shuddhi t for the sake of shuddhi by inducing Mussalmans 
or Christians to change their religions, but if a Hindu who has 
changed his religion wants to come back to the fold of Hinduism, 
I see no reason why we should not encourage him. 

I wrote a letter to Benthall t asking him to give us paper 
free of charge for the Hindi Harijan. Probably you know that 
Benthall is the Managing Agent of the Titaghur Paper Mills. 
Benthall said that he could consider the question of advertising 
in the Harijan, but cannot present to us paper as a gift. I said 
we should mention in the issue of the Harijan that we had received 
paper gratis from the Titaghur Paper Mills and that this in itself 
would be an advertisement. But he said that this would not serve 
his purpose. I told him that as we did not take advertisements, 
it was not possible for us to advertise the Titaghur Paper Mills. 
The matter is now before the Board of Directors. Do you think 
it is possible for us to accommodate the Titaghur Paper Mills ? 

I wonder what you now think of the Hindi Harijan. I per¬ 
sonally think that on the whole the publication is quite satisfac¬ 
tory. Financially, it will take some time before it can be inde- 

* Members of a caste of the depressed class, 
t Reconversion. 
t Sir Edward Benthall. 


8 


113 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

pendent. But I think it is making steady progress and in three or 
four months’ time it will become absolutely self-supporting. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

Bapu’s next letter shows his very practical turn of mind 
in dealing with the problem of the Calcutta slums. 

Yeravada Central Prison, 

28 th March, 1933. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

I hope you received my letter in Hindi which I wrote the 
day before yesterday, i.e. 26th. I do think that we ought to 
find out a means of dealing with the bustees problem in Calcutta 
as a whole, and not piecemeal. When therefore you next go to 
Calcutta I suggest your having an informal meeting of the princi¬ 
pal municipal councillors. No matter what vested interests have 
grown up, they should be attacked and the problem dealt with. 
From what you write to me, the cheapest method evidently seems 
to be to demolish these bustees. The opposition to the introduc¬ 
tion of a more humane method of carrying night-soil seems to 
me to be perfectly useless. Improved methods must in the begin¬ 
ning stages mean more expense, but undoubtedly less in the end. 
The question behind all the difficulties that arise resolves itself, 
as a rule, into apathy on the part of those who profess their 
appreciation of the necessity for reform, but are not prepared to 
sacrifice anything for it. You must therefore turn this apathy 
into active sympathy, and a way out will be quickly found. 

As to the Hindi Harijan, I wrote to you the day before 
yesterday telling you that the only articles that were found worth 
reading were yours, except the first. Your style is pleasing, 
simple, idiomatic. Your method of dealing with the subject is 
plain, direct and easily understandable. Of course the transla¬ 
tion of my articles was faulty, but that difficulty will not be 
got over by sending translations ready-made from here. The 
Hindi will have to be polished there. This ought to reduce 
expense and improve the paper. 

Pray do not worry about the David scheme. I just told you 
how I came to write about it. But I quite understand your diffi¬ 
culty. If it becomes necessary, we must naturally fall back upon 
the Central Fund. But let us for a while wait and see if we can 


114 


BIRTH OF A MAGAZINE 


/" 


get even half a dozen subscribers with the full amounts. I do 
not despair ; only I never get time to frame nice letters. But I 
will do so one of these days. When I have one or two names 
I propose to announce your name with these. 

Yours sincerely, 

; Bapu 

Our correspondence at this time was largely taken up 
with the launching of the Harijan and with its make-up 
and contents:— 

31st March, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

I have your letter of the 23rd and also of the 26th March 
written in your own handwriting. On the 15th of April we have 
our annual session of the Federation. It will take two or three 
days. After this, about the end of April, I will go to Calcutta 
and get my nose operation performed. I have more or less 
decided to do this. 

As regards sending money to the Central Board I can give 
you another practical suggestion. There is a Cotton Mill in 
Poona owned by Mr. Shivlal Motilal and if you pay the money 
to them they will in turn pay the same to the Central Board at 
Delhi. 

I am taking no further interest as regards the controversy in 
Bengal regarding the Yeravada Pact. But I understand from 
Satish Babu, with whom I had a talk before I left Calcutta, that 
when the Poet and Acharya Ray return from their tour, he would 
take action if it is considered necessary at that time. 

As regards the Selection Board, as Mr. Thakkar is going 
to see you, you will have a full talk with him. After that we shall 
appoint a Board according to your desire. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

31st March, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

I have already read your suggestion about the Hindi Harijan. 
I personally feel that it is making steady progress, so far as the 
quality is concerned. Financially also, I hope that in course of 
time, it will be self-supporting. The position, just now, finan¬ 
cially is something like this : 


115 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

We are selling only about 1,000 copies. But if we can sell 
2,500 copies, we shall become self-supporting. The cost per 
issue for 12 pages and for 2,500 copies would be as follows :— 

Printing charges Rs. 45 

Paper charges Rs. 33 

Folding Rs. 5 

Postage, railway, etc. Rs. 28 

Roughly it would come to Rs. 480/- per month. The salaries of 
staff, etc., would come to about Rs. 160/- per month. Thus on 
2,500 copies we incur an expenditure of Rs. 640/- per month. 

If we can sell all the 2,500 copies, half of them to the sub¬ 
scribers and the other half to agents, we shall get on an average 
Rs. 3 per copy which would mean Rs. 7,500/- per year. I do 
not think, it should be difficult to get a sale of 2,500 copies. 
The paper is not sufficiently advertised, and I have written a num¬ 
ber of letters to some of my personal friends to push the sales, 
but I am not sure how far they are going to succeed. We are 
sending a travelling agent to secure subscribers and I hope that 
this may bring us a good number. I wonder whether you feel 
so satisfied with the quality of the paper as to enable you to issue 
a public appeal in favour of it. So far as I can compare it with 
the Gujarati issue, I would not say that it is much inferior to it. 
I wish you to look through the 6th issue, that is of the 31st March. 
You will see from this that except for two articles from Mr. 
Thakkar, one from Mr. Kalelkar and notes from the editor, all 
the other articles are your own. Mr. Thakkar’s article on page 
10 is, I think, good. Mr. Kalelkar’s article is not bad enough to 
have been omitted. Besides this, almost all the articles are yours. 
My only complaint, just now, is about the translation. I do not 
like the literal translation made by Hariji from English and I 
have told him to use, as far as possible, pure Hindi idioms instead 
of literally translating English idioms. I hope you will approve 
of this. The translations made by Mahadevbhai* too, I must 
confess, are equally bad. Besides, I do not want you to take 
an unnecessary burden on yourself. Please leave the translation 
to Viyogiji and let us see how far we succeed. I would, however, 
wish you, if you desire to translate some of the articles yourself, 
not to translate literally but to write independent articles on the 
same line. That would make better reading. For instance, your 

* Mahadev Desai, Gandhiji’s devoted Secretary. 


116 


BIRTH OF A MAGAZINE 


translation, which is not a literal translation, published on page 8 
of the issue of the 31st March reads very much better than some 
of the translations made by Mahadevbhai. Similarly, your trans¬ 
lation from Gujarati printed on page 3 is also a beautiful transla¬ 
tion. , The others are not good. I would, therefore, submit that 
you should send us either the original articles or independent 
translations. If you desire, you may leave the literal translations % 

either from Gujarati or from English to us. Leaving aside the 
defects in the translation, I personally feel that the issue of the 
31st March has come up very nearly to standard, and I should 
like to hear from you whether you agree with me or differ. In 
case you differ, I should like to have some definite criticism from 
you. 

For the future my suggestion is, and this I have said also to 
Viyogiji, that we should have a 12-page paper printed with smal¬ 
ler type. As regards the matter, almost all your articles, either 
originals or translation, should be there. A note or two, not 
taking more than two columns, should be written by the editor. If 
we get your original articles, they should occupy the editorial 
page. Besides this, we should give weekly reports and if we can 
also get some good Puranic stories from such books as Bhakta 
Mai etc., we might employ a page or two for this purpose. I 
hope you will like my suggestion ; if not, please let me have 
yours. I hope you will also approve of our issuing a 12-page 
paper although we can reduce the same to 8 pages. But, I think, 
there is enough material for a 12-page paper, and we therefore 
need not curtail the size. The reports appearing so far are not 
very important, and for this I am drawing the attention of the 
Provincial Boards. 

I am enclosing herewith a cutting from Patit Bandhu. This 
will give you an idea as to what sort of stories we want to put in. 

I wonder whether you would care to send a copy of the 
English issue of the Harijan to the Private Secretary to the Gover¬ 
nor of Bengal, t You know my views about him. He is a good 
man and genuinely wants to understand you. I will pay the 
cost and if you will agree with me, a copy will be sent to the 
Private Secretary every Friday. A letter may also be sent to the 
Private Secretary saying that the copy is meant for His Excellency 
the Governor. 

t Sir John Anderson, now Lord Waverley. 


117 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

I am going to Gwalior tomorrow and will return after ten 
or twelve days. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

10th April, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

I have your letter of the 28th March. As regards the Cal¬ 
cutta work, I myself feel that we will have to do something and 
when I go back to Calcutta, I shall certainly take up the question. 
The difficulties are there, and it is not so easy to achieve success. 
But in any case we will have to do our real best and I shall cer¬ 
tainly take up the question in right earnest. 

You have not yet written to me whether we can accept ad¬ 
vertisement from the Titaghur Paper Mill. Benthall is prepared 
to give us advertisement, but not paper free of charge. 

I received Rs. 3,000 from Lala Kamalapatji of Cawnpore. 
He wants to spend the money for scholarships. I have written 
to Mr. Kunzru asking him how he would like to spend the money. 
In case he is prepared to spend it for Mr. David’s scheme, we 
can count on another Rs. 3,000. In any case the money will have 
to be spent in the U.P. 

Though there are other institutions too which are working 
quietly. I happened to preside over the prize distribution cere¬ 
mony of an untouchable school for girls. The workers made a 
good impression on me about their activities. I have asked them 
to prepare a list of all their activities. If we are satisfied, I think 
the Board should give some sort of grant-in-aid to such institutions. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

11th April, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

I have your letter of the 3rd/4th April. As regards sending 
a copy of the Harijan to the Private Secretary to His Excellency 
the Governor of Bengal, I understand your reasoning. If I have 
understood it right, then I, as the President, would be acting quite 
properly in sending the paper to any of my acquaintances. I 
would, therefore, suggest that one copy each of the Harijan may 
be sent to the following persons at my expense : 

(1) Private Secretary to H. E. the Governor of Bengal. 


118 


BIRTH OF A MAGAZINE 


(2) Sir Edward Benthall, Calcutta. 

(3) Sir Walter Layton, c/o The Economist, London. 

(4) Sir Henry Strakosh, India Office, London. 

(5) Lord Reading, London. 

(6) Lord Lothian, London. 

T will be going to Delhi tomorrow for three or four days 
and then I will come here again and wait for my father who has 
asked me to stay here until he comes from Nasik where he is stay¬ 
ing just now. My father will be coming here about the first week 
of May on his way to Hardwar. After seeing him off, I will proceed 
straight to Calcutta and I propose to stay there for at least two 
months. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 


119 


CHAPTER IX 

MORE ABOUT THE HARIJANS 

Bapu's exit from prison in 1933 gave a new stimulus to 
our work for the Harijans. 

29th April, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

As you will see from this letter, I am now at Gwalior wait¬ 
ing for my father. He is expected here on the 3rd of next month 
and after that I will go to Hardwar. After seeing him off, I pro¬ 
pose to go to Calcutta, where I expect to arrive about the 7th 
or 8 th of May. 

As regards the Hindi Harijan I could not agree with Viyogiji 
that it will be self-supporting within a short time. I hope, how¬ 
ever, that it will certainly be self-supporting in course of time. 
Every day we are getting new subscribers. 

As regards my writing in the Harijan , unfortunately I cannot 
write unless I feel like writing ; but I have been helping in the tran¬ 
slation. In the last issue of the Harijan the translation of your 
article about the letter of Andrews was done substantially by me or 
with my help. I will, however, try to write articles again from 
Calcutta. Probably I will use the paper for Calcutta bustee reform 
propaganda. 

I am glad that my father paid a visit to you. I do not know 
how he impressed you with his limited education and way of ex¬ 
pression. But he is very good at heart and has a great regard for 
you. He himself, although staunchly orthodox, appreciates your 
views and in his own ways carries on propaganda in your favour. 

Yes, immediately after I reach Calcutta, I will undergo the 
operation. As you will remember, in Poona and Bombay the 
doctors recommended that I should have my septum removed, 
which is now deviated. The Calcutta specialist has been telling 
me that it is not the septum correction which is urgently required 
but a permanent drainage in the antrum. In America they told 
me to get both done. I will, therefore, have, first of all, a perma¬ 
nent drainage performed and if it does not give me any relief, then 
I will also have to undergo the second operation. 


120 


MORE ABOUT THE HARIJANS 


My daughter-in-law tried Dr. Mehta’s treatment but she had 
not sufficient patience to continue it for more than 20 days. My 
son and daughter-in-law have both now left for Mahabaleshwar. 

Mahadevbhai enquires whether I should be charged for the 
copies of the English Harijan which are sent to Lord Reading and 
Lord Lothian. I think this is immaterial and does not matter, 
in my opinion, one way or the other. If in order to help the paper 
it is necessary that I should be charged, you may instruct Mr. 
Shastri to do so. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

12 th August, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

I have not heard anything from you so far. But I hope you 
will have no difficulty in getting this letter. 

We have been sending material for the English Harijan. 
We miss your articles very badly, but somehow or other we are 
managing things. I have got a leather expert to write something 
about tanning and curing which I hope may be of some interest 
to readers. We shall be able to continue like this, but we cannot 
make the paper very bright without receiving contributions from 
you. 

Thakkar Bapa has gone on tour and he is expected here about 
the 18th of this month. 

Since I have come here, I have taken up the question of 
starting a leather school and also a mixed boarding house, parti¬ 
cularly for the Harijan boys. I am searching for a good plot of 
land and I hope that within a few weeks v/e shall be able to make 
a beginning. Please let me have your suggestions if you have 
any in this connection. According to my estimate the cost of 
land would be about Rs. 5,000 and I propose to spend another 
Rs. 5,000 on building. This I propose to do out of the funds 
of the Society. Of course we shall take formal permission from 
the members. But I take it that we have your sanction to pro¬ 
ceed. As regards the leather school, I propose to bear the re¬ 
curring charges myself at least for one year. 

Lakshmi is as happy and comfortable as it is possible to be. 
I am keeping quite fit and I hope you and Mahadevbhai are quite 
comfortable. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

‘Satyagraha Ashram’, 
Wardha, Sept. 30, 1933 . 

Dear Ghanshyamdas, 

As you are aware, the ‘Satyagraha Ashram’ grounds with the 
buildings in Sabarmati were abandoned on the 1st of August last 
by the Ashram people. I had expected that the Government 
would, in view of my letter addressed to them, take charge of this 
abandoned property, but they did not do so. It then became a 
question with me as to what my duty was in the circumstances. I 
felt that it was altogether wrong to allow the valuable buildings 
and the equally valuable crops and trees to lie neglected and run 
to waste. I consulted friends and co-workers and came to the 
conclusion that the best use to make of the Ashram was to dedi¬ 
cate it once for all to the service of the Harijans. I placed my pro¬ 
posal before those trustees of the Ashram who are available, and 
also fellow members. They have, I am happy to say, whole¬ 
heartedly approved of my idea. When the property was aban¬ 
doned there certainly was the expectation that some day, whether 
through an honourable settlement or through India coming into 
her own, the trustees would resume possession. Under the new 
proposal, the trustees divest themselves entirely of the property. 
The procedure is permissible under the trust deed, service of the 
Harijans being one of the objects of the trust. Therefore, the 
new proposal is wholly in keeping with the letter and spirit of the 
constitution of the Ashram as also of the trust. 

The question that the trustees and I had to consider was to 
whom the property was to be transferred for the specific use I 
have mentioned; and we unanimously came to the conclusion 
that it should be transferred to the All-India Harijan organisation 
for all-India use. The objects of the trust are : (i) to settle 
on the Ashram ground approved Harijan families subject to re¬ 
gulations to be framed ; (ii) to open a hostel for Harijan boys 
and girls with liberty to take non-Harijans ; (iii) to conduct a 
technological department for teaching the art of skinning, tanning 
the hide so obtained, curing it and manufacturing leather so pre¬ 
pared into shoes, sandals and other articles of daily use ; and lastly, 
to use the premises as offices for the Central Board or the Gujarat 
provincial organisation or both, and such other allied uses as the 
Committee, referred to in the following paragraph, may think 
proper. 


122 


MORE ABOUT THE HARIJANS 

On behalf of the trustees, I suggest that the Servants of Un¬ 
touchables Society should appoint a special committee with your¬ 
self and the Secretary as ex-officio members, and three Ahmeda- 
bad citizens, with power to this committee to add to their number, 
to take over this trust and to give effect to its objects. 

Two friends who have been always associated with the 
Ashram, viz., Syts. Budhabhai and Juthabhai, have offered to re¬ 
side on the premises as honorary managers. They have private 
means and have been devoted to the service of the Harijans for a 
long time. There is also an inmate of the Ashram, who has dedi¬ 
cated his life to Harijan service, and who will gladly stay on the 
premises. He has almost become a specialist as a teacher of 
Harijan boys and girls. The committee, I have therefore sug¬ 
gested, should have no difficulty in managing the trust; nor is it 
necessary that all the activities I have mentioned should be simul¬ 
taneously and immediately undertaken. Some Harijan families, 
as you are aware, are already living there. It has long been a 
dream of the members of the Ashram to establish a colony of 
Harijan families, but beyond having a few of them we were not 
able to make further progress. Experiments in tanning were 
also conducted there. Manufacture of sandals was going on up 
to the time of disbandment. The buildings contain a spacious 
hostel easily accommodating 100 boarders. It has a fairly big 
weaving shed and other buildings exceptionally fitted for the uses 
I have named. The property contains 100 acres. I venture to 
say, therefore, that the site is none too large for the fulfilment of 
the objects mentioned, but it is large enough for the response 
that may be reasonably expected for some time to come. I hope 
that the Society will have no objection in accepting the offer of 
the trustees and taking over the responsibility implied in the 
acceptance. 

Yours sincerely, 

M. K. Gandhi 

4th October, 1933. 

My dear Gandhiji, 

It was so very generous of you and of the Trustees of 
Sabarmati Ashram to make an offer of the grounds and building 
of that Ashram in your letter, dated Wardha, the 30th Sept. ’33, 
to dedicate them to the service of the Harijans’ cause ; and for that 
purpose to hand over the same to the Servants of the Untouchables 


123 . 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

Society. I have no hesitation in accepting the kind offer, and hope 
that the Society will prove itself worthy of the trust that you have 
reposed in it. I am accepting the offer without waiting for the 
opinions of the members of the Central Board, fully hoping that 
they will all approve of my action. 

The four objects for which the property is to be used, men¬ 
tioned in para, two of your letter, will constantly be kept in mind 
by this Society. I further hope that all of them will be under¬ 
taken without any avoidable loss of time. The services of Syts. 
Budhabhai and Juthabhai as well as the third gentleman (whose 
name is, I believe, Bhagwanji Gandhi) will be taken advantage 
of and I am confident that they will prove valuable helpmates. 
You have suggested in para, three of your letter that the Society 
should appoint a special committee consisting of five persons with 
powers to add, to take over the Trust and give effect to its objects. 
Besides myself and the General Secretary of this Society you sug¬ 
gest that three Ahmedabad citizens should be included in the com¬ 
mittee. These three will no doubt be selected in consultation with 
you. May I not say that the formation of the committee of manage¬ 
ment be entirely left to this Society, who will be held wholly respon¬ 
sible for the fulfilment of the Trust? However, if the three 
Ahmedabad citizens happen to be nominated as members of the 
Central Board of the Society, it will then consist wholly of mem¬ 
bers and not partly of members of this Society and partly of out¬ 
siders. But this is a small point which we may be free to settle 
by personal discussion, if necessary. 

Incidentally it will take some time before the property, to¬ 
gether with the crops and trees standing thereon, can be taken 
charge of by this Society. I would, therefore, request you to ask 
those who are at present in charge to continue to do so and look 
after the estate as heretofore. 

Once again, expressing to you my gratitude for your 
magnanimity. 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 

President 

5th October, 1933. 

My dear Bapu, 

I had already wired to you my acceptance of your office to 


124 


MORE ABOUT THE HARIJANS 

transfer the Ashram to the Mandal.* I had in the beginning some 
doubts in my mind about our capacity to manage the Ashram 
from a distance. But since I know that some of your trusted 
men are going to reside in the Ashram and will give their whole¬ 
time service to the cause, I have no longer any uneasiness in my 
mind. I hope that we shall prove ourselves worthy of the trust 
that you have reposed in us. I have accepted the offer without 
waiting for the opinions of the members of the Central Board 
fully hoping that they will approve of the action. The four ob¬ 
jects for which the property is to be used as mentioned in para. 2 
of your letter will be constantly kept in mind by the Society. 

Arising from your offer and our acceptance of the same a few 
points crop up which require your careful consideration. So far 
we have had no property except the cash lying with us in the 
banks. We are thinking of purchasing some land in Delhi for 
building a Harijan Hostel. But by the acceptance of your offer 
we will shortly be in possession of a valuable property. The 
question will thus immediately arise as to who will be the owner 
of this property. Will it be the Harijan Mandal? If so, then the 
Harijan Mandal would for all practical purposes mean the persons 
by whose sufferance it exists and there is no such thing as suffer¬ 
ance in our Society so far. Therefore, we have to decide what sort 
of constitution we are to have in future. In administrative work 
democracy creates a lot of difficulties and tends towards party 
factions. But at the same time where an institution is holding 
property worth lakhs and lakhs an out-and-out autocratic consti¬ 
tution is not a desirable thing. Probably the lesser of the two evils 
would be a restrained autocracy or a qualified democracy. I 
wonder whether you would like that a dozen persons devoted to 
the cause of the Society for life should become founder members 
who alone should enjoy the right to vote. The wider power now 
vested in the President may hereafter be transferred to the mem¬ 
bers. If that is not desirable, then I think a separate Board of 
Trustees may be constituted to hold the property. It should have 
wider powers enabling it to withdraw the property from the posses¬ 
sion of the Harijan Board at any time, in case they found that good 
use of the same was not being made. The latter suggestion is 
to be adopted only in case we decide to have a democratic constitu¬ 
tion. You have suggested a committee of five, three of them to 

* Association. 


125 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

be Ahmedabad citizens and the President and the Secretary to be 
ex-officio members. I am not quite sure whether you want this 
committee to act as Trustees to hold and administer the property 
of the Ashram, or just to act as an Advisory Body. In case they 
are to act as Trustees then what will be the locus standi of the 
Society, and what will be the method for the election of three 
Ahmedabad citizens? And besides, one cannot be quite sure 
what sort of a Secretary and a President will represent the Harijan 
Mandal on the Trust Board in case it becomes a democratic body. 
I hope I have expressed myself clearly as regards the difficulties 
likely to arise under the present constitution as also under a very 
democratic constitution. I want you to think over the matter care¬ 
fully and let me have your suggestions. If we would not be hold¬ 
ing any property then I feel that the present constitution is quite 
workable. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

‘Satyagraha Ashram’, 
Wardha, Oct. 8, 1933. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

I have your letter. 

The difficulty you raise is there, and it was in anticipation 
of it that I suggested the formation of a board of trustees. My 
idea is that the property should be held by these trustees perma¬ 
nently, under very definite conditions, with a right even to sell. 
You and Thakkar Bapa should be permanent members, irrespec¬ 
tive of what happens to the popular organization. This proposal 
disposes of the question from which the larger one has arisen, so 
that I am not prepared to discuss the issue in this letter for want 
of time. Meanwhile I would ask you to study the constitution of 
the All-India Spinners’ Association. We may postpone the dis¬ 
cussion till we meet, and, seeing that I am here up to the 7th of 
November, it might be possible for you to come, even if it be 
for that one question. 

You have referred to the proposed hostel in Delhi. In view 
of our possessing the Ashram ground and buildings, do you think 
that there is any urgency for the Delhi proposal? Should we not 
wait and see how the Sabarmati plan progresses before venturing 
upon another big scheme? I am inclined to think that we ought 
to concentrate our attention upon making the Sabarmati scheme a 


126 


MORE ABOUT THE HARIJANS 


thorough success, and it will tax the energy of many of us to make 
it so. 

I hope you are keeping well. What about the nose? The 
weather in Delhi ought to be very fine at this time of the year. 

v Yours' sincerely, 

Bapu 

‘Satyagraha Ashram’, 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, Wardha, Oct. 26, 1933. 

I must dictate in English in answer to your letter written in 
Hindi. 

It was not necessary to write further about the constitution 
of the Harijan Sevak Sangh. Whether we should immediately 
bring into being a semi-democratic organisation is a question for 
consideration. I do not know whether under the appointment 
there is the power, but the plan that I have suggested is feasible 
and can be enforced immediately, that is, to register the Ashram 
in the names of the trustees that I have suggested. You should 
discuss your idea with Thakkar Bapa and Hariji. 

As to the Spinners’ Association, I had an absolutely free 
hand, and I evolved a plan which enabled it to become an easily 
operating and sound organisation with immense possibility for 
democratisation. I wanted to write to you, as soon as the deci¬ 
sion for the transfer of the Ashram was taken, that in view of that 
acquisition the ambitious plan for Delhi should be abandoned. 
But the hostel scheme is quite sound. Of course, we shall want 
many such hostels ; and I can see immense possibilities emerging 
from them, if they are properly managed. When I am in Delhi 
you may throw any work you like on to me. 

So far as Biharilal is concerned, if he will serve in connec¬ 
tion with the hostel schemes and so on, we can utilise his services. 
But I am very much against engaging paid preachers, Harijans or 
otherwise. And in this matter we cannot be too firm. 

Yours sincerely, 
Bapu 

24-1-34 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

There has been a tremendous change in the outlook of the 
people. Let us see what happens. I see God’s hand in this 
work. This is not a mere formality. As a matter of fact this 
is beyond the capacity of one man, or for the matter of that. 


127 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


one thousand men. But this is a thing on which not much can 
be written or spoken, which only means that my faith in God is 
increasing. I can see for myself the littleness of my own capacity. 
I hope you are keeping well. 

With Bapu’s blessings. 

I have no copy of what I wrote to Bapu about the Bihar 
earthquake at this time, but here is his reply:— 

31-1-34. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

Your letter. I liked the comparison between the earthquake 
and the Harijan problem very much, because there is truth in it. 
It is self-evident that those who had little to lose have lost little ; 
but it is also true that those who had anything to lose are now 
beggars. I am trying to do whatever is possible from here. 

The net result of my tour in Bengal is that I am now at a 
loss as to what to do. It is good that you are there. I have 
written a long letter to Bidhan today. Read it and then decide. 
To me there appears to be only one decision possible; to go, if 
you do not stop. 

With Bapu’s blessings. 

Lord Halifax, whose father had just died, also wrote 
about the earthquake:— 

Board of Education, 

Whitehall, London, S.W., 

13th February, 1934. 

Dear Mr. Birla, 

Thank you so much for your kind letter. It was good of 
you to have us in your thoughts at a time which, for all who 
knew my father, is one of great sadness at the close of so long 
a chapter of happiness. But for him I can have nothing but 
thankfulness. 

I was deeply distressed to hear of the heavy loss of life and 
damage caused by the Earthquake, the magnitude of which we 
did not at first fully appreciate owing to the breakdown of com¬ 
munications in the locality. The sufferers have my deepest sym¬ 
pathy, and I am glad to see that, as you say, everyone is co-operat¬ 
ing to mitigate the severity of the distress. 

Yours sincerely, 
Halifax 

128 


CHAPTER X 

POLITICAL INTERLUDE 
BAPU'was at this time anxious to meet Sir John Anderson. 

12-2-34. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

I had a talk with Miss Lester about Midnapore* and • 
suggested an interview with the Governor. She wrote to the 
Governor and he sent a telegram. Now she is going there. 
Please read the letter I wrote to her. I have asked her to see 
you and learn everything. Please tell her all about it. If neces¬ 
sary, you can also arrange for her meeting with Dr. Bidhan Roy 
and Satish Babu. She will return to me on Friday. She has 
been given money for the journey expenses and her ticket has 
also been purchased. Whether these expenses should be realised 
from you or from Jamnalalji, I do not know which would be 
proper. 

This has been written in great haste. I have your letters 
to which I shall reply, but I am not getting time. 

With Bapu’s blessings. 

* Where the Magistrate had just been killed by terrorists. 

19-2-34. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

I got your letter. I am thinking whether to write to the 
Governor or not. Anyway, the practice of tribute from Midna¬ 
pore has been discontinued. But he has not admitted his mis¬ 
take. Miss Lester has now applied for an interview with the 
Viceroy. These things will not yield any result just now, but 
still, we should not allow any chance of a settlement to slip. 

Bidhan Roy should try his best for an interview. Let the 
Congressmen say whatever they like. 

I have postponed the idea of coming there till at least the 
Bihar matter is over. It will be attended to later. 

I hope you will try to see Jawaharlal. 

Miss Harrison will be relieved in England in March. It is 
altogether better she comes here. I have already written about it. 

With Bapu’s blessings. 

129 


9 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

Patna, 13-3-34. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

Enclosed is a copy of a letter written to Sir Samuel [Hoare]. 
As for Sir Samuel, I would like you to do something for me. 
If Scarpa* is there, find out from him as to what took place at 
the meeting because he was present there. Even if he was not 
there, the meeting was arranged through him. It would be better 
if the names of those who took part in the meeting are also 
given. I want to accumulate all the facts relating to this matter. 
So far everything in this connection is being conducted through 
the medium of English, and it is all a snare. It reminds me of 
the anecdotes of rendering Ajmer as A] mar a [died today]. 

You wish to come down to see me. I shall call you later in 
connection with the Harijan work. I have allowed Thakkar Bapa 
to go to Delhi, as he was not needed here ; though a worker of 
his stamp can be of use in any work. The fact is that he was 
not particularly needed. But if you want to come in connection 
with Bihar or about the correspondence exchanged lately with 
Sir Samuel Hoare, you can do so whenever you like. I shall be 
in the Motihari area from Wednesday till Friday, returning in the 
evening of Friday. 

Agatha Harrison will be reaching Bombay on the 16th. 
Lester has seen the Viceroy. She will be arriving here tomorrow. 

With Bapu’s blessings. 

* Dr. Scarpa was the Italian Consul General in Calcutta in 1931. He 
was in Rome when Bapu was there. 

The letter to Sir Samuel Hoare concerned a ‘fake’ inter¬ 
view with Bapu published in an Italian paper, and 
reported by The Times correspondent in Rome:— 

As at Wardha, (C.P.) India, 
January, 1934. 

Dear Sir Samuel, 

You will recollect that whilst I was returning to India in the 
December of 1931 you had a cable sent to me in regard to an 
interview alleged to have been given by me to a journalist in 
Rome, and that I sent a categorical denial. To this there was a 
counter denial which I had not seen till recently, being in gaol 
within less than one week of my landing in Bombay. 


130 


POLITICAL INTERLUDE 


After my discharge from the last imprisonment in August 
last I was told by Miraben Slade that an English friend—Prof. 
Maclean of Wilson College, Bombay—had thought that although 
the matter was stale, it was worth while my clearing it up, as the 
denial by the Rome journalist had created a profound impression 
at the time of its publication and had probably precipitated the 
Viceregal action against me in 1932. Agreeing with Prof. 
Maclean, 1 at once asked Miraben to write to Miss Agatha Harri¬ 
son to procure the relevant newspaper cuttings. After much 
search she was able to get them. The last and the most impor¬ 
tant I received from her last month in the midst of my hurricane 
tour in the cause of the anti-untouchability campaign. For ready 
reference, I send you copies of the three cuttings marked A, B 
and C, respectively.’* 

It should be noted that these cuttings were for the first time 
seen by me on their being received from Miss Harrison. I have 
now read and re-read them several times, and I have no hesitation 
in saying that A and C are a caricature of what took place. A 
professes to be a summary of a long statement said to have been 
made by me to an Italian journalist. In C The Times corres¬ 
pondent, on seeing my denial regarding the alleged interview, 
makes a halting admission that I might be correct in so far as 
Signor Gayda did not ‘request any formal interview and no such 
interview was granted,’ but insists that the statements attributed 
to me were substantially correct. But truth will perhaps be better 
served by my simply stating what I do know than by analysing 
A and C. 

1. I never made any statement, much less a long one, to 
Signor Gayda as suggested in A. 

2. I was never invited to meet Signor Gayda at any place. 
But I was invited by an Italian friend to meet some Italian citi¬ 
zens at an informal drawing-room meeting at a private house. 
At this meeting I was introduced to several friends whose names I 
cannot now recall and could not have recalled even the day after 
the meeting. The introductions were merely formal. 

3. At this meeting the conversation was general, and not 
addressed to any particular individual. Questions were put by 
several friends and there was a random conversation as at all 
drawing-room meetings. 

* A and C are reproduced on pages 133 and 134. 


131 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

4. It was therefore wrong for Signor Gayda or The Times 
correspondent to reproduce my remarks, as if they were a con¬ 
nected statement to one particular person. 

5. Signor Gayda never showed to me for verification any¬ 
thing he might have taken down. 

6. The conversation, among other things, referred to the 
Round Table Conference, my impression of it and my possible 
future action. Many of the things that have been put into my 
mouth in A, I had never said. All my hopes, fears and future 
intentions were expressed in as precise a language as it was pos¬ 
sible for me to command and use in my speech at the close of 
the Round Table Conference. Whatever I said in private con¬ 
versation was but a paraphrase of the sentiments expressed in 
that speech. I am not given to saying one thing in public and 
another in private, or to saying one thing to one friend and 
something else to another. I could not have said that there was 
a definite rupture between the Indian nation and the British 
Government, for I had said to several friends about the same 
time that I was determined to strain every nerve to prevent a 
rupture and to continue the peaceful relations established by the 
Irwin-Gandhi Pact. Being an optimist, I do not believe in a 
final rupture between human beings. 

7. I never said that I was returning to India in order to 
restart the struggle against England. Certain possibilities about 
which I was questioned at the informal meeting have been so 
described in A as if I was actually going to India to bring them 
about, if I could. 

I would add that the public had neither the original notes 
supposed to have been made by Signor Gayda nor the latter’s 
own version wherever published. In A and C they had only the 
impressions of The Times correspondent about what Signor Gayda 
wrote or said. 

I do not know how you were affected by C. If your faith 
in my denial was shaken, perhaps in any case, I should have been 
acquainted with the rejoinder to my denial as you had kindly 
brought to my notice the first report. I do not know how you 
will react to this letter. If you have any doubts about my bona 

fides, I should like to clear them, if it is at all nossible for me to 
do so. 


132 


POLITICAL INTERLUDE 


Miss Slade was the ‘follower’ referred to in C. I enclose 
herewith her recollections of the conversation. 

I am not publishing this letter. I am sending copies to 
several friends for their private use. But I would like you, if you 
could, to give it publicity, or to ask Prof. C. F. Andrews, Wood- 
brooke, Selly Oak, Birmingham, to make such public use of the 
letter as he might wish. 

Yours sincerely, 

M. K. Gandhi 


‘ A ’ Extract from The Times 

A NEW TRADE BOYCOTT 
From our own Correspondent 

Rome, December, 14th. 

/ 

Mr. Gandhi, who had refused to make any statements to 
many journalists, both Italian and foreign, who had been invited 
to meet him, has now made a long statement to Signor Gayda 
of the Giornale dTtalia. 

Mr. Gandhi said that the Round Table Conference, which 
‘marked the definite rupture of relations between the Indian 
nation and the British Government,’ had been for Indians a long 
and slow agony. It had, however, served to make quite clear 
to the British authorities the spirit of the Indian nation and its 
leaders and to ask the true intentions of England. He was 
returning to India in order to restart at once his struggle against 
England, which was to take the form of passive resistance and 
the boycott of British goods. He considered that the boycott 
would now prove a powerful means of rendering more acute the 
British crisis, already difficult through the devaluation of the cur¬ 
rency and unemployment. The closing of the Indian market to 
all British products would signify substantially a reduction of 
English industrial activity, an increase of unemployment, and a 
new depreciation of the pound. 

Mr. Gandhi concluded his remarks by lamenting that few 
European countries had hitherto shown interest in the Indian 
problem. That was a pity, since an independent and prosperous 
India would mean a richer market for the products of other 
nations, and Indian freedom would be manifested through com¬ 
mercial and intellectual exchanges with all countries. 


133 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


4 C ’ (Extract from The Times ) 

21st Dec. 1931. 

Mr. Gandhi has authorised a complete denial of an interview 
he is reported to have given to the Giornale dTtalia during his 
brief stay in Rome, and which was summarised in The Times of 
December 15. The statements attributed to him went so much 
further in respect of the prospect of restarting civil disobedience 
in India than any previous utterance that it was felt necessary to 
ascertain precisely what he said. Accordingly a telegram was 
sent from an authoritative Quarter to Mr. Gandhi on board the 
Italian liner Pilsna in the Mediterranean in the following terms :— 

Press reports state that, on embarkation, you issued to 
Giornale dTtalia a statement which contained expressions 
such as following :— 

(1) Round Table Conference marked definite rupture 
of relations between Indian nation and British Government. 

(2) You are returning to India in order to restart at 
once struggle against England. 

(3) Boycott would now prove powerful means of ren¬ 
dering more acute British crisis. 

(4) We will not pay taxes, we will not work for England 
in any way, we will completely isolate British authorities, 
their politics and their institutions, and we will totally boy¬ 
cott all British goods. 

Some of your friends here think you must have been 
misreported, and, if so, denial desirable. 

The following telegraphic reply was received from Mr. Gandhi 
yesterday :— 

Giornale DTtalia statement is wholly false. I never 
gave any interview to Pressmen at Rome. Last interview I 
gave was to Reuter at Villeneuve in Switzerland, where I 
asked the people of India not to come to a hasty decision 
but to await my statement. I shall take no precipitate action 
but shall make ample previous entreaty to the authorities 
should direct action become unfortunately necessary. Please 
give this statement the widest publicity possible. 

Signor Gayda has resolutely refused to accept Mr. Gandhi’s 
denial of the statements attributed to him in the Giornale dTtalia. 
In a laconic note Signor Gayda has declared that the words attri- 


134 


POLITICAL INTERLUDE 


buted by him to the Mahatma were written in his presence as 
he spoke them and in the presence of other witnesses. So far 
as I understand the facts of the case, the dementi of Mr. Gandhi 
may be correct in so far as Signor Gayda did not request a formal 
‘interview’ and no such ‘interview’ was granted. 

According to information given to me, Signor Gayda was 
introduced to the Mahatma in a private house, and it was made 
perfectly clear to Mr. Gandhi who Signor Gayda was. When 
Mr. Gandhi began to make the remarkable statements attributed 
to him, Signor Gayda, realising their interest and anxious to make 
no mistake, asked for a pencil and paper, which were given to 
him. Signor Gayda then wrote down the statements of Mr. 
Gandhi there and then in his presence and in that of a follower, 
without any word being spoken by either of them that the remarks 
were not for publication. 

It would appear, therefore, from the version I have received, 
that so far as the substance of the remarks is concerned, Signor 
Gayda, who, as I personally can testify, understands English quite 
well, took down the utterances of the Mahatma with particular 
care. 

Miraben’s Statement 

My recollection of the occasion, which occurred now 2 years 
and 5 months ago, is as follows :— 

Gandhiji with his companions was invited to an informal 
gathering at the house of an Italian Countess in Rome, friend 
of the Italian Consul, Bombay (then in Rome). It was a long 
visit consisting of a drawingroom talk followed by light refresh¬ 
ments and further general conversation. During the beginning of 
the visit I was the only member of our party with Gandhiji, the 
others dropping in later one after another. I was with Gandhiji 
during the whole visit except for 15 or 20 minutes near the end 
of the time when I went into the dining room to prepare some 
fruit, etc., for Gandhiji and to take some refreshment myself. 

During the talk, as far as I can now remember, the conversa¬ 
tion was to begin with somewhat social and varied. The Countess 
was busy introducing people to Gandhiji and leading off conversa¬ 
tions on various topics. As the talk warmed up two or three 
gentlemen from amongst the group became conspicuous by their 
persistent questioning on the political and economic situation, and 


135 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

I remember one of them asking for a pencil and paper and begin¬ 
ning to make notes. After a little the rest of our company 
began to turn up and we soon moved into a bigger room next 
the dining room. Here the conversation again became general 
except for a little serious talk of Gandhiji with someone, the 
particulars of which I cannot now remember. 

I heard every word that Gandhiji uttered except for the few 
minutes I had gone out. He was giving his usual replies to poli¬ 
tical and economic questions with rather extra force and plain¬ 
ness of language because of the difficulty the Italian gentleman 
felt in understanding English and because of the persistence of 
the questioners. If Gandhiji had said some of the things attri¬ 
buted to him by The Times correspondent, I should have been 
dumbfounded. It would have meant that he had thrown his 
ideas and beliefs to the winds, and I could no longer have looked 
on him as my guide and father. 

Mira [Miss Slade] 

The Swaraj Parliamentary party which had ‘walked 
out’ of the Central Legislature some years earlier was 
formed again in 1934. I was uneasy about its relations 
with the Congress, and wrote to Bapu, who was in 
Assam :— 

14th April , 1934. 

My dear Bapu, 

As you are inviting an informal meeting of the Working 
Committee and later on a formal meeting of the A.I.C.C., I thought 
I may put in my views about the formation of the Swaraj Party. 
So far as your two interviews go, I have nothing to say. Some¬ 
how or other, I always agree with you and therefore please do not 
think that I am lacking in reasoning powers. After all, what am 
I to say if you are always correct ? Now about the Swaraj Party. 
Since Dr. Ansari, Bhulabhai and Dr. Roy have announced the 
formation of the new party, Pandit Malaviyaji seems to be very 
upset. He is not quite sure what attitude he would take at the 
time of election. You know, he holds strong views about the 
Communal Award, and the Hindu Sabhaites who are eager to 
go to the Assembly have already begun to exploit him. There 
is a danger of another party being formed under the leadership 
of Pandit Malaviya if the situation is not handled tactfully and 


136 


POLITICAL INTERLUDE 


in time. About the communal question Panditji is sailing bet¬ 
ween the Congress and the Hindu Sabha. He agrees with none. 
He would like to have an amicable settlement and yet is not pre¬ 
pared reasonably to satisfy the Mohammadans. At present he 
insists that the Communal Award should be wrecked, which of 
course is an impossible job. He says that the Muslims may have 
33 per cent in the Assembly and also 51 per cent in Bengal, but 
then he wants the rest of the seats to go to Hindus and not 
to be divided between the Hindus and the Europeans. There 
is much reason in what he says. But this method of operation 
would not appeal to you. He wants to canvass Muslim support 
in his favour, which he will never get, and also wants to lead a 
deputation to the Viceroy and to the Cabinet which can never 
bear fruit. I do not know what would be the creed of the Swaraj 
Party as regards communal matters. But I think it is possible to 
reconcile Panditji’s views with that of the Swaraj Party if it 
gives freedom to its members to fight against the Communal 
Award in their own way. If this is not done it is likely to 
cause a serious split among the nationalist Hindus, a thing 
to be avoided. All that Panditji wants is that the newly formed 
Swaraj Party should not show any attachment to the Communal 
Award. 

The next point is about the control of the Party. I agree 
with Panditji that either the Congress should have full control, 
over the party or take no interest in it. There should be no half¬ 
way house. Because if men like . . . are allowed full mastery 
without the Congress exercising any control and yet giving 
the party its blessings then the Congress will be shirking its 
responsibility. This will cause a weakening of the party and 
may create corruption among the rank and file and may thus also 
discredit the Congress. I see very serious danger ahead based 
on my past experience of the Swaraj Party. And now we have 
no Motilal. Some control by the Congress, even though party 
administration may be in the hands of the party leaders, is essen¬ 
tial. If, on the other hand, the Congress does not desire to 
keep control, then it is no use its giving its blessings to the 
Swaraj Party. You have to be clear on this point. I would 
certainly prefer control by the Congress. 

Yours affectionately, 

Ghanshyamdas 


137 


TN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

Gandhiji gave his opinion about this, and also referred 
to the Communal Award in an April letter not otherwise 
dated * —— 

Dibrugarh, April, 1934. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

The Award affair is very difficult, indeed. Something is 
possible if the Muslims accept the way out suggested by me. 
Even if they do not do so, the path is straight enough. I am 
afraid, however, that the Swarajists will not like it. I do not 
find the atmosphere favourable for the success of Hindu-Muslim- 
Sikh unity work. 

I have made an independent study of the Council-entry ques¬ 
tion. It appears to me that there will always be a party within 
the Congress wedded to the idea of Council-entry. The reins 
of the Congress should be in the hands of that group, and that 
group alone needs the name of the Congress. I have accepted 
this for all time. They will also boycott the legislatures whenever 
they deem it to be necessary. 

There are many difficulties connected with Council-entry. 
Things will continue to be judged, mistakes committed, and 
drawbacks removed. In fact things will continue to move even 
if mistakes are allowed to remain unrectified. 

I like Ranchi better than Calcutta. It is different even if 
people do not enjoy as many amenities at Ranchi as are available 
in Calcutta. The peace available at Ranchi is not to be dreamt 
of in Calcutta. I have left it to Rajendra Babu. 

I shall go through your Federation speech and communicate 
to you my reactions. 

If there is a meeting at Ranchi and it is convenient for you 
to come, please do come. Maybe it will be to the good. But 
I cannot say definitely. 

With Bapu’s blessings. 

I now decided to write to Lord Halifax:— 

23rd April, 1934. 

Dear Lord Halifax, 

I write this with great diffidence. But the inclination was 
too strong to be resisted. 

More than three years back for the first time in the history of 
India two big men met, each representing his own country, and 


138 


POLITICAL INTERLUDE 


brought India and England closer than before. In taking the 
initiative your Lordship set an example to both countries, that 
through mutual understanding and negotiations alone lay the road 
to peace and goodwill. The subsequent history is very tragic. 
But I am told that a provincial Governor recently remarked to a 
friend of mine that Gandhi carried out his obligation one hundred 
per cent under the ‘solemn pact’. 

Be that as it may. The present position is most unhappy 
and intolerable. Not only is there more bitterness and greater 
lack of faith in British pledges than was ever before manifested ; 
but what is worse is that the only method of peace, that is, the 
way of mutual understanding and human contact, is thrown over¬ 
board once for all. The old man is represented sometimes as an 
unpractical and unconstructive visionary and at others as a dis¬ 
honest, astute and insincere politician. He cannot be both and 
you know what he is. There is no desire to understand him. There 
is horror against human contact. When Gandhiji said to Lord 
Willingdon in a recent letter which I have seen, ‘Believe me when 
I say that I am yours and England’s true friend,’ he meant it. 
He did not stand on prestige but unconditionally offered co-opera¬ 
tion in reconstructing Bihar province, proving thereby that though 
a staunch non-co-operator, as he calls himself, he is the best co- 
operator. He has also now withdrawn the Civil Disobedience 
movement, earning the displeasure of the Left Wing of the Con¬ 
gress. I have not the slightest doubt that this course will be 
approved by the Congress. His influence over the country and 
the Congress is today even more than ever before. 

But what next? To my mind a better mutual understanding 
more than a better constitution is the greater requirement of the 
day. A constitution prepared in an atmosphere of distrust can 
never succeed. On the other hand, a mutual understanding can 
itself lead spontaneously to a satisfactory solution of the constitu¬ 
tional tangle. I go further and maintain that this is the only 
method even to persuade the Churchills to see that in trusting 
India they are not jeopardising the best interest of England. Every 
well-wisher of England and India thus for the time being can only 
have one mission at heart, that is, of establishing mutual apprecia¬ 
tion between leaders in the two countries. You were, Sir, the 
first to recognise this essential truth, and today the need for realisa¬ 
tion of this simple truth is greater than before—and may I submit 


139 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

that those who on this side of the sea believe in this expect your 
active help? During all these days of distress those who still 
greatly admire your Lordship have one question on their lips : 
‘What is Lord Irwin doing?’ I know the keen interest you still 
take in our affairs. But if I am allowed, I may say that India 
needs your help much more than what you unstintedly gave in 
the past. You set an example in 1931, but it has not been fully 
pursued. I still feel that this course is the only hope for both 
countries and I appeal to you to pursue the course initiated in 
1931. In the present atmosphere success may be distant, but 
that is no reason for giving up good efforts. 

Please allow me to be excused for this lengthy letter. My 
only justification is my attachment to Gandhiji, admiration for you 
and my love for my country. 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 

He replied in most reassuring terms :— 

88, Eaton Square, London, S.W.l, 
11th May, 1934. 

Dear Mr. Birla, 

I got your letter a few days ago, and I wish to write and thank 
you for it. I think you may rest assured that I shall not cease to 
do everything that I can, in circumstances that are not too easy, 
to assist in the task of winning through to better understanding on 
all sides of the matters that make for India’s contentment and 
peace, and I have never lost my faith that with the efforts on the 
part of all those who wish for this end the great task will be ac¬ 
complished. So you may feel certain that anything I can do will 
be gladly done. I have always felt that the present situation is 
one demanding great patience on all sides, and a readiness to see 
through our present difficulties in the light of the larger hope. 

Yours sincerely, 
Halifax 

I close this chapter with a letter I received from Bapu 
which shows again his reliance on me for help in the 
financing of his work, in this case the establishment of 
cottage industries as a means of uplifting the economic 
condition of the lower classes. 


140 


POLITICAL INTERLUDE 


Wardha, 29-11-34. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

I am in receipt of your letter. 

How can I say what my needs are? When there is a ques¬ 
tion of 100/-, 200/-, 1,000/-, or 2,000/-, I ask for and get it 
from you. But the work of cottage industries is a vast under¬ 
taking, and by taking it in hand I have added manifold to my 
requirements. Therefore, the only thing I can say is that what¬ 
ever is left over after you have made other necessary donations, 
can be given to me. 

I am experiencing some difficulty in forming a Board for 
cottage industries. The Board 1 want to form will have not less 
than three and not more than ten members. I want only such 
men on the Board who have complete faith in its aims and objects 
and who are able to give almost the whole of their time. This 
work is causing me a headache; I hope you are mindful of it. 

Utmanzai is Khan Saheb’s own village. It has been my 
ambition for a long time to stay there for a while. I sent a letter 
to Delhi on Thursday, in which I have explained the reason of my 
going there, enquiring if there is any harm in my touring the 
Frontier area. Let us see what reply comes through. 

What time has been fixed for the operation? 

With Bapu’s blessings. 


141 


CHAPTER XI 


THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA BILL 

The passage of the Government of India Bill through 
the House of Commons was naturally closely watched in 
India. It fell short of independence, but Gandhiji, who 
was concentrating on his Harijan Movement as a neces¬ 
sary accompaniment of advance towards independence, 
realised that the Bill was capable of producing benefit, if 
worked in the right spirit. Some Congressmen, on the 
other hand, saw nothing good in it and held that it should 
be pilloried as worse than the Montagu Act. Now that 
India has complete independence, we Indians can afford 
to review the past in a more dispassionate spirit and re¬ 
cognise that it did contain seeds which were to germi¬ 
nate, blossom and bear fruit giving us ultimately the full 
independence that we aspired for. We have embodied 
large portions of the Act, as finally passed, in the Consti¬ 
tution which we have framed ourselves which shows that 
in it was cast the pattern of our future plans. 

Calcutta, 14th December, 1934 . 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

I had a long talk with Arthur Moore yesterday at my house 
lasting for about two and a half hours. Mr. Muggeridge, the new 
man, came with him. The topic of the conversation from the 
beginning to the end was Bapu. He casually asked my opinion 
on the report when I pointed out that it was more the prevailing 
atmosphere than the contents of the report which in my opinion 
mattered most, and I strongly criticised the lack of personal con¬ 
tact. He agreed, but said that everyone in the Government 
feared that any contact with Mr. Gandhi might arouse all sorts 
of speculation. He is going to tell the Viceroy everything that 
I said to him. He said that the British community was getting 
warmer towards Mr. Gandhi. He had a talk only yesterday with 
the Viceroy who asked him what Bapu’s motive was in publishing 
the correspondence about the Frontier. Moore replied that 
Bapu’s motive was sincere, and that he had no desire to preach 


142 


THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA BILL 


civil disobedience to the Frontier village folk. He said that the 
Viceroy might have agreed with his views, but he added that there 
was another school of thought which believed that Mr. Gandhi 
was difficult to understand and that his ways were subtle. Many 
thought he was waiting for another opportunity to launch a move¬ 
ment against the Government. He added that in his second 
letter to the Viceroy, he, Bapu, should not have uttered a threat 
of disobedience. From what I have learnt, it appears that a lot 
of misunderstanding prevails which requires to be removed ; and 
it will be removed, though, of course, it will take some time. 
It is reported that Cunningham, who knows Bapu, and who is 
now the Governor of the Frontier Province, feels that Bapu’s 
visit may cause great excitement and thus may embarrass the 
administration. Moore told me that the Bengal Governor was 
very keen on seeing Bapu, but somehow or other the interview 
could not come about. He asked me whether Bapu was coming 
again to Calcutta, implying thereby that if he did, he would try 
to fix up an interview. I said Bapu had nothing to do in Bengal 
and so was not coming unless the authorities desired to see him. 

I think the ban against him is partly due to a feeling of sus¬ 
picion and partly due to the resultant embarrassment which his 
visit may cause. I think it is very essential that this suspicion 
should be removed and I hope it will be removed. I also learn 
that Willingdon entertains more suspicion against Bapu than 
hostility. It is naturally difficult for them to understand the 
true philosophy of Satyagrah. Moore said that the only Satya- 
grah was the fast of Bapu but the other actions were more akin 
to violence than to Satyagrah . Of course, he was exaggerating 
but it cannot be said that the masses performed anything even 
approaching pure Satyagrah. 

Somehow or other, I find that these men do not take to 
Andrews and such with much kindness. They have no opinion 
of their intelligence and unfortunately have a sort of prejudice 
which I had not discovered until now. 

Yours sincerely, 
Ghanshyamdas 

1st February, 1935 . 

My dear Bapu, 

Immediately after you left, I heard from the Flome Member* 

* Sir Henry Craik. 

143 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


and the Viceroy*, and the enclosure is the report of my interview 
with them. I am not good at pen pictures, especially in English, 
and so am not sure whether this will give you a correct impression. 
But I will supplement it by saying that with the Home Member, 
I did most of the talking, while with the Viceroy, the latter did 
most. The Home Member was very cordial. Although not a 
clever man, he appeared to me to be very straight and frank. He 
has no prejudice against anyone and I would not call him anti- 
Indian in any sense. He may be called an administrator if that 
conveys a sense of die-hardism but if he is so, he is quite honest. 
On the other hand, the Viceroy was a little more critical this 
time. He has genuinely felt hurt by Congressmen abstaining from 
writing their names [in the Visitors’ Book] and I wonder whether 
Bhulabhai should not reconsider the position in respect of him¬ 
self apart from the other Congress M.L.A.s. I wonder whether 
Bhulabhai should not assure the Private Secretary that no personal 
insult was meant and, if necessary, this should be followed by 
his writing the name, simply for the reason that it was treated 
as an insult. I may have a further talk with the Governor of 
Bengal and after that, I will leave things to take their own course. 
Write to me what you think of it. It is good that the Home 
Member will meet Vallabhbhai at any rate. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

* Lord Willingdon. 


15 th February, 1935 . 

My dear Bapu, 

The enclosure contains copies of a letter from Sir Samuel 
Hoare, my reply to it and the notes of my interview with the 
Governor of Bengal. The Governor now tells me definitely that 
there will be some overture for establishing some point of agree¬ 
ment after the Bill is passed. You had also said that if they did 
anything, it would be after the passage of the Bill. It is useless 
to make any conjectures as to what they would do. But for the 
time being, it is quite satisfactory to learn that they have a plan. 
The letter from Sir Samuel Hoare is equally frank and cordial but 
evidently he does not want to say more than what the circum¬ 
stances permit. He may bear in mind what the Governor tells 
me. To enter into a pact after the Bill is passed would be a 


144 


THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA BILL 

difficult job for Congressmen, but let us hope that your resource¬ 
fulness will be able to help at the proper time. Please tell me 
your own reading after this and also any instructions you have 
for me. 

There will be probably another meeting between Vallabhbhai 
and Sir Henry Craik either at my house or at some other place. 
As the Home Member expressed a desire that he should be in¬ 
formed about Vallabhbhai’s arrival, Bhulabhai is going to speak 
to him tomorrow and fix up a time if the latter expresses a desire 
to talk. 

With reference to your feeling as to whether you should or 
should not write to the Home Member, I think it is no use writing 
anything until the matter ends one way or the other. There is 
no question just now of Bhulabhai signing his name in the Visi¬ 
tors’ Book but if at any time the other side definitely said that 
this was the only obstacle in the way, then, I am told, there 
would be no difficulty. When the atmosphere changes, this petty 
thing will cease to assume any importance. 

I still stick to my view that it is not correct to say that the 
proposed constitution is worse than the Montagu Reforms. Of 
course, this Bill could be made worse, even tyrannical, but it 
could as well be made better, and far better, than the existing 
position, and I would therefore ask you to keep an open mind 
about the truce. If they make no agreement with you, then, of 
course, the proposal stands condemned. But until then, do not 
you think you should keep an open mind about it ? 

Now, what about my going ? After the talk with the 
Governor, I am inclined to go. But the last word rests with you. 

Rajendra Babu has evolved a formula for the communal 
settlement. It is based on joint electorates and no change in the 
seats, and the franchise is to be differential so as to reflect a 
correct proportion of the two communities in the constituencies. 
He is in close touch with me, and I have advised him to get 
Mr. Ramanand Chatterjee and Mr. J. N. Basu here to talk about 
Bengal rather than go to Calcutta. I fear the atmosphere in 
Bengal is not good and so it is better to keep the venue in Delhi 
but the real difficulty would be about the Sikhs. Hindus even 
in the Punjab may be reconciled. But it is a hard job. Pandit 
Malaviyaji, I fear, will not be helpful, as usual! 

145 


10 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

If in any thing you feel that I have made a mistake, please 
correct me. I am only an amateur in this line but I hope I 
know your views and reasoning fully well. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

Pandit Malaviya was naturally very interested in 
the Bill and had very decided views of his own about 
the franchise in relation to the Hindu-Moslem question. 
His strict Hindu orthodoxy and attachment to the caste 
system led him to disapprove of Gandhiji’s battle for the 
Harijans and caused other difficulties, to which I alluded 
in a letter for Gandhiji addressed to Mahadev Desai on 
the 27th February:— 

27 th February, 1935 . 

Panditji left today. As usual, he neither agrees with the 
rank communalists nor with the Jinnah-Rajendra Prasad formula. 
He has given me a number of suggestions but it is no use dis¬ 
cussing them since I know that Jinnah is not prepared to go* 
beyond the formula. I think eventually we will have to resort 
to a Congress-League agreement. It is more than probable now 
that Panditji will go to England. In fact, before leaving for 
Bombay he informed me definitely that he is leaving on the 
15th March. 

I had to pass through an embarrassing time these days.. 
Panditji every day pressed the point about the policy of the 
Hindustan Times and went to the extent of saying that I should 
leave the paper entirely in his hands. He even suggested that if 
I disliked his policy, I could resign. I could not accept his sug¬ 
gestions because it was not a question of merely my resignation. 
Parasnath and Devdas both would have followed me and a crisis: 
was thus inevitable. Financially, the paper would have been ruin¬ 
ed. So I definitely said ‘No’ and suggested that the matter be 
put before the directors and the shareholders. This distressed 
Panditji very much for some time but eventually he agreed to have 
a non-commital policy. So the Hindustan Times will now make 
no comment either against or in favour of Panditji. I thought 
this was the best under the circumstances. I did not like to 
shock him by putting him out of the Board. 


146 


CHAPTER XII 

A CRITICAL PERIOD 

The long-drawn-out discussions both in India and in 
England, which preceded and accompanied the slow 
passage of the Government of India Act through the 
British Parliament, continued. To revert to an earlier 
stage, I did not share the somewhat poor opinion of 
C. F. Andrews, which Arthur Moore had told me pre¬ 
vailed amongst his own countrymen. His goodness and 
integrity seemed to me beyond question. These perhaps 
outran his intelligence so that to the British he appeared 
a meddling busybody and this prevented him from being 
a successful intermediary. Also, although his own cha¬ 
racter was a fine one and would have justified him in some 
self-confidence, he seemed curiously incapable of exist¬ 
ing except in the shadow of another. Thus he oscillated 
continually between his devotion to Gandhiji and his 
equally enthusiastic adoration of Tagore, whom he spoke 
of continually as ‘the poet’. 

Wardha, 16-12-34. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Your kind letter giving most interesting details of your inter¬ 
views with Moore. What you say is quite true, but how is that 
suspicion to be dispelled ? Certainly not by go-betweens like 
C.F.A. for whom these men in high places have a very poor 
opinion, but by those who know Bapu well and who know the 
other party also well, and enjoy his confidence. But unfortunately 
most of those who come in this category are backboneless and 
can be brow-beaten and snubbed. 

C.F.A. went to Delhi to meet the Home Secretary and the 
Home Member. Whether he succeeded in meeting both or one 
we do not know, but he quietly writes in his illusive way : ‘Had 
long interview. Glad I came. Writing fully. Wire your plans.’ 
Then there is a wire saying he is arriving here tomorrow ! I am 


147 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

afraid he has been able to do very little as usual. But let us 
see. I shall let you know. 

Yours affectionately, 
Mahadev 

On the day on which Mahadev wrote this letter I was 
myself making an attempt at presenting the Indian view 
to the British Secretary of State in the following letter:— 

Calcutta, 16th December, 1934. 

Dear Sir Samuel Hoare, 

I am writing this after reading the J.S.C. Report very care¬ 
fully and after the splendid speech that you delivered in the 
House of Commons. 

I am naturally writing this with some amount of hesitation 
as I know I have not found myself generally in agreement with 
you. But if my personal regard for you, and my constant humble 
endeavour to explain you and your efforts in a friendly light to 
quarters where they are misunderstood, entitle me to tell you 
what I sincerely feel, I may not resist the urge. 

I have nothing to say about the report. You have rightly 
stated in Parliament that in India it has satisfied few. On the 
other hand, your words spoken to me during my last interview 
with you, ‘howsoever radical a Secretary of State may be, with 
the present Parliament it is impossible to go beyond a certain 
stage,’ are still ringing in my ears. I frankly recognise that, in 
the present Parliament, it may not be possible to go beyond the 
recommendations of the J.S.C. Report. But I am looking upon 
the situation entirely from a different angle. 

I analogise the recommended scheme with the grant of 
powers of attorney in commercial houses. We grant general and 
special powers as need be to our managers and assistants. We 
can suspend the powers, and even dismiss the men, if we cease 
to trust them. But I do not know of cases in my own firm and 
in many other firms where such suspension or dismissal has not 
been rare. The arrangement has worked most successfully because 
the employer trusts the manager, and the manager reciprocates and 
both work for a common aim. This means that mutual trust and 
a common aim are more important than the contents of the powers 
of attorney. I believe that full responsible Government is the 
common aim in our case. Can it be said that mutual trust, good- 


148 


A CRITICAL PERIOD 


will, sympathy and mutual understanding so essential for the rea¬ 
lisation of the aim—whether the first step in reforms be very 
modest or very substantial—is prevailing today in India ? I am 
not blaming any party, but I sincerely feel that the Government 
being the governing party, it is they who have to cultivate this 
position. I would ask you to analyse the psychology of the events 
which, in my opinion, more than the defects of the scheme, is 
causing the talk of rejection rather than modification. 

The Irwin-Gandhi pact recognised 

(1) Responsibility at the Centre, 

(2) Federal Government, 

(3) Reservation and safeguards demonstrably to be in the 
interest of India. 

Evidently, it was recognised by the signatories to the Pact 
that whatever be the ultimate goal, reservation and safeguards 
were essential during a period of transition. Even those who 
talked of independence—and different men attached different 
meanings to the word—did not find reservations during the transi¬ 
tion to be incompatible with the ultimate goal of complete and 
full responsible Government. Was it not so because there was 
a personal touch in the Irwin-Gandhi Pact which is missing just 
now ? You have rightly emphasised the conception of partner¬ 
ship, but how is this conception to be translated into practice 
while avoiding the personal contact, which alone could establish 
mutual understanding and trust between the two countries ? May 
I submit that it is the method of advance, rather than its measure, 
which will always count? The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms 
were introduced in an unfortunate atmosphere and I hope the 
mistake will not be repeated. 

I have ventured to write this, though uncertain of my credit 
with you, because I am and have been most anxious to see a 
permanent, friendly and peaceful relation restored between the 
two countries, and have been, in my own humble way, working 
in this direction. 

With the kindest regards, I remain, 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 

At the same time I had an interview with the Governor 
of Bengal, which I recorded in a letter to Mahadev Desai 
for Bapu’s information:— 


149 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

Calcutta, 18th December, 1934. 

After I saw Moore, I talked to the Governor* on the same 
topic and he, while agreeing with me and pointing out his limita¬ 
tions, remarked, ‘Why do not you speak to the Viceroy ?’ I said, 
‘I am an untouchable with the Viceroy.’ He said, ‘Surely, you 
saw him last year.’ I said ‘No’ and added that I would like to 
see him only if he would encourage me to talk, but I do not want 
to go if he thinks me to be a busybody with some axe to grind. 
He said, ‘The Viceroy would feel hesitation in talking, if he thought 
that you were an emissary of Gandhi.’ I said, ‘I am an emissary of 
none and so far as I know, Gandhiji has not appointed anyone as 
his emissary.’ He said that he believed in my sincerity and 
would speak to the Viceroy and would write to me if he felt it was 
any use my meeting him. He asked me whether I would 
stay in Calcutta for a few days more to which I replied m the 
affirmative. I believe it is no use C.F.A. seeing them. I fear 
it may be spoiling the thing. 

I would like to be more intimate with them and thus effec¬ 
tively represent Bapu and I could do this easily but I fear there 
is no natural opportunity just now. But now I am working my 
own way and allowing things to take their natural course. 

After brooding for a week, I decided yesterday also to write 
to Samuel Hoare in the same strain. I realise that it is impos¬ 
sible in the present circumstances for the Government to open 
negotiations with Bapu on constitutional matters and, therefore, 
I am not pressing this. The only thing that I am pressing is 
that they should know Bapu and have personal contact with him. 
I think if they do this, the rest will look after itself. The best 
‘go-between’ between the Government and Bapu can be Bapu 
himself. 

There is nothing in the Joint Select Committee’s Report. Its 
recommendations are nothing more than powers of attorney from 
a master to his employee which could be cancelled at will. But 
even this, with a proper understanding between Bapu and the 
Government, could bring us nearer to ‘Swaraj’ and help us in 
getting a better constitution in course of time. I therefore attach 
more importance to the change of heart than constitution, as 
Bapu always termed the phrase. 

* Sir John Anderson, now Lord Waver ley. 


150 


A CRITICAL PERIOD 


I have heard from a reliable source that there is a strong 
impression at Viceroy’s House that all this organisation of villages 
by Bapu is merely to mobilise villages for the ultimate aim of 
starting another campaign of civil disobedience. 

I am relieved to hear from you that Bapu is not coming here 
entirely for me. This would have really been very embarrassing. 
Now, I am looking forward to the pleasure of passing a few quiet 
days with him. But would people leave him alone ? 

C.R., under the mistaken impression that I was in 
bed, kindly wrote at this time about my health. I re¬ 
plied as follows:— 

Calcutta, 20th December, 1934. 

My dear Rajaji, 

Thanks for your letter. 

I was never in bed for any length of time, short or long. 
Of course, I had to take rest for three or four days in bed but 
then I was quite free to move about in my house. The doctors 
did not allow me to go to office or to go out of Calcutta because 
they feared infection. 

I heard about your visit to Delhi, and also read your inter¬ 
view about the Joint Parliamentary Committee’s Report. And I 
was amazed that you thought that it was something worse than 
the present constitution. I thought we were both of the same 
opinion that even with its worst phases it could not be worse than 
the present constitution. Maybe that your speech was mis-repor- 
ted. Personally, I think that what is necessary and what is pos¬ 
sible is not any constitutional change but a great change in the 
present atmosphere. If the atmosphere were friendly on both 
sides and there was goodwill on behalf of Great Britain, the 
constitution would work well even though it is not satisfactory. 
On the other hand, even a better constitution would fail if the 
present atmosphere does not improve. I thus attach more impor¬ 
tance to the atmosphere than to the measure of advance. 

Agatha says that you should go to London and I have myself 
begun to feel that if a go-between is necessary, it is far better 
that you and Vallabhbhai went to London rather than that Mr. 
Andrews, with the best of intentions, should move about and 
achieve nothing. He is just now with me and is going to see 


151 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

the Viceroy tomorrow. Bhulabhai is the best man for seeing the 
Viceroy, and now that he has got a constitutional position I 
think his seeing him would mean something. 

I hope Laxmi and the baby are quite well. Devdas is going 
to turn into another Tushar Kanti Ghose who during the day toils 
for the Patrika and at night dreams about it. 

Yours sincerely, 
Ghanshyamdas 

Sir Samuel Hoare’s reply arrived in the new year and 
is dated 4th January, 1935:— 

Personal. 

Dear Mr. Birla, 

I was glad to hear from you again. Many thanks for what 
you say about my speech. I am afraid we are not in agreement 
on the constitutional question. But it is a good thing that we 
should at any rate understand each other’s point of view. It 
is evidently the safeguards that occupy the prominent position in 
your mind. To us here the impressive fact is that there is to be so 
large an extension of self-Govemment. The difficulty has been— 
and it has been a very great difficulty—to persuade people that 
the safeguards are sufficient, indeed that they are substantial safe¬ 
guards and not merely paper safeguards. Of course they are some 
people here who would never be persuaded of this at all. But we 
have now, I think, succeeded in persuading the great mass of sen¬ 
sible people who are taking the whole problem very seriously 
and are genuinely anxious to do the right thing by India. The 
opinion which now prevails here as a result of our efforts was very 
well expressed the other day by one of our best political writers 
in the following words : ‘Side by side with the grant of free 
institutions, there is forming in the safeguards a new conception 
of the nature of the British Raj in India. . . . We both give 
liberty and underwrite its risks.’ I hope you will appreciate the 
last phrase as one taken from the language of business. I wish 
that you and your friends would see the matter in this light. 
The general feeling here is one of prudence. You would probably 
call it caution. But certainly it is not one of illiberally. I am 
afraid this is not realised in India. But I still hope that, in the 


4 


152 


A CRITICAL PERIOD 


end, things will turn out better than you appear to think at: 
present. 

With kind regards, 

Yours sincerely, 
Samuel Hoare 

I wrote again as soon as I received it:— 

19th January, 1935 . 

Dear Sir Samuel Hoare, 

I am grateful to you for your letter of the 4th January. 

I fear I could not express myself clearly in my last letter or 
else you would not have said that the safeguards occupied a 
prominent position in my mind. I am not at all frightened of 
the safeguards. Even in the interest of India, certain safeguards 
will be necessary. I would not say that the safeguards provided' 
in the report are in the best interests of India. Besides, in as 
much as the Report does not make any provision for the next 
step towards the ultimate goal, this is no mean defect. But I 
admit, as I did in my last letter, that you have your own difficulties 
and I would be ignoring the realities if at this stage, when the 
die is cast, I tried to persuade you to make such alterations in 
your plans as would satisfy Indian opinion. What I therefore 
wanted to convey to you in my last letter was this : Whatever 
be the safeguards, they would not hinder progress if there was 
genuine sympathy and goodwill behind them. I may accept what 
you say, that the scheme reflects an act of prudence and not one 
of illiberality. But do not you think you would like the best 
in India to share your views and get up and say: ‘The constitu¬ 
tion is not what we want, but we will work it honestly for con¬ 
structive purposes because what is lacking in the letter is to be 
made up in the spirit?’ I want your incoming ‘partners’ to be 
personally assured by the partners in Britain that she wanted to- 
do the right thing by India and that there was no lack of libera¬ 
lity. When I say this, I am not talking as people generally do 
with vague ideas but as a practical business man who believes 
that given goodwill such a position can be achieved and must be 
achieved. At times, I even feel that I should come to London: 
to persuade you personally to share my views that with mutual 
understanding even bad safeguards could become an insurance 
against risk, whereas even good ones in the absence of a human- 


153 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

touch become a stumbling block in the path of peace and smooth 
working. 

Your frank reply to my last letter has encouraged me to 
write all this, and I assure you that you can always count on 
my service for any step that you take to create a cordiality which 
is at present lacking in the Indian atmosphere and which is so 
necessary in the interest of both the countries who by destiny 
are bound together. 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 

In the previous chapter there was mention of my 
interview with the Home Member, Sir Henry Craik, on 
The 30th June, 1935. As an illustration of my unshak¬ 
able belief in the value of personal contacts and my 
impulse to urge this on every possible occasion, it may 
be of interest to give in detail my own record of this 
interview:— 

The man is about 60 and from his face appeared to be 
straight and honest. At the outset, he warmly thanked me for 
coming to meet him and said that he had heard from the Viceroy 
that I differed from those who said that the proposed reforms are 
worse than the Montagu reforms. I said, ‘Yes, I did ; but my 
opinion is not unqualified. I told the Viceroy that I had not come 
across one man who did not believe that the proposed reform 
was worse than the Montagu reforms, and if I did not agree with 
them, it was because I felt that with goodwill and sympathy from 
both sides, the proposed reforms could lead us towards our ulti¬ 
mate goal.’ I said, ‘I would not judge the report by its contents 
but by the spirit in which it would be worked. If there was no 
sincerity on the part of Britain, the safeguards would become 
really obstructive. On the other hand, if there was sincerity and 
sympathy, they would become a real insurance against risk.’ He 
said, ‘I can assure you that there is genuine sympathy and good¬ 
will. I am not saying this about Churchill and his followers, but 
there is plenty of young blood among the Tories who are really 
sympathetic and feel that they are parting with great power. The 
safeguards are only against risk and I do not think they will 
ever be operative. It will be a great mistake if India rejects 


i 


154 


A CRITICAL PERIOD 


it. It is true that there is an unsatisfactory aspect in the scheme. 
We have not got as much as even we, the Government, wanted. 
Englishmen were frightened of the Congress utterances. Hence, 
you find the safeguards. But please assure Mr. Gandhi that 
there is genuine sympathy and goodwill on our part to do good 
by India and get Mr. Gandhi’s co-operation.’ I replied, ‘I may 
accept your assurance and take it that you are .all sympathetic 
and want to do good. At the same time, when I sit at the feet 
of Gandhiji I find that he is most reasonable and equally eager 
to co-operate for the good of the country. Do not you think I 
have reasonable cause for bewilderment if I feel that there is 
desire here and a desire there and yet there is a gap ? Surely, 
there is some vital element lacking in your desire which precludes 
offering a hand of co-operation to Gandhiji.’ He replied, ‘I do 
not understand what you mean. Do you want the Viceroy and 
Gandhi to meet ? His Excellency would very much like to see 
him but this boycott on the part of the Congress M.L.A.s has 
created certain complications. I wish you could do something in 
the matter because that would be helpful.’ I said, Tor this, 
you have to speak to Bhulabhai but you ought to judge the 
M.L.A.s not by what they have done but by what they have 
not done.’ And I related the story of the M.L.A.s deciding not 
to attend the Viceroy’s speech. He was very much impressed. 

I said, ‘Look at another instance of Gandhiji’s reasonableness. 
He deliberately accepted a cut of 6i per cent.* That shows the 
compromising and constructive spirit of the man. One can very 
well imagine you, Sir Henry Craik, as a man who broke the 
heads of thousands and issued ordinances, walking with pistol 
and sword in your hands. But when I see you and hear you, I 
find that you are a straight and honest man. Similarly, you may 
be hearing all sorts of things about Gandhiji and his lieutenants 
and building clouds of suspicion in your mind. But you 
all forget that a man is a man. He has a heart and sentiments. 
Have you ever tried to touch the heart of Gandhiji ?’ He said, 
‘Yes, I quite agree that it has been very unfortunate but tell me 
what are Gandhiji’s views about reforms ? He has never expres¬ 
sed his views in public. Has he expressed them in private ?’ I 
replied, ‘Would you be surprised if I told you that he has not even 

* I cannot now remember after such a lapse of time what this 6i per 
cent, refers to. 


155 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


read the Report and this is just like him. He is accustomed to* 
judge bigger things by smaller happenings. If he finds no genero¬ 
sity in smaller things, he would say to himself: “There is no hope 
of finding generosity in the Report itself.” But I can tell you some¬ 
thing about his mind. People come and tell him that the pro¬ 
posed scheme is worse than the Montagu reforms and he endorses 
it. And when I say to him that the proposed scheme could be 
worked successfully and to the fullest advantage of India if there 
were sympathy and goodwill from both the sides, he endorses 
my views too. And there is no inconsistency in it. And he ex¬ 
plains that in this way: “When Montagu introduced his reforms, 
he at least took a section of the people into his confidence and 
got their support. That showed that there was some earnestness 
on his part to meet Indian opinion. For the proposed scheme, 
the Government have not got any section with them. That shows 
that they are indifferent towards winning the confidence of the 
people. And so the proposed reforms prove to be worse than 
the Montagu reforms.”—You are talking of partnership but want 
to avoid contact with your incoming partners. How does this 
prove goodwill or sincerity ? If you can prove that there is sym¬ 
pathy and goodwill and that it is due to circumstances beyond 
your control that you cannot advance further, then Gandhiji would 
find a solution for you and offer his helping hand. He would then 
accept the reforms as something better than the present Constitu¬ 
tion. When asked to define what Swaraj was, Gandhiji at one 
time defined it not through legal language, but by putting forward 
10 or 14 points as symbolic of Swaraj. You will thus see the 
reasoning process of Gandhiji.’ He said, ‘This means that Gan¬ 
dhiji is not a practical politician.’ I said, ‘No. This only shows 
that he is the most practical man. And those who are not practi¬ 
cal men make up their mind by the words put in cold print. He 
is quite different. And as I am a businessman, I say, in spite 
of every other opinion expressed, that with goodwill and sympathy, 
even the proposed reforms could lead us to our ultimate goal/ 
He at once saw his mistake in remarking that Gandhiji was not a 
practical man. I continued, ‘The political education of the public 
has been on destructive lines before Gandhiji’s advent. We have 
been taught to think that politics is confined to putting forward 
destructive criticism of the Government. Gandhiji gave a new 
conception. He said: “Spin and weave ; remove untouchability ; 


156 


A CRITICAL PERIOD 


unite with the minority and all that.” For the first time a con¬ 
structive side was put before the public. But we have not yet 
learnt to,admire the Government because you have given us no 
opportunity to do this. But all the same, this education is very 
dangerous. There is already a section growing up gradually 
which believes that even the best should not be achieved by consti¬ 
tutional means. They think that even Swaraj achieved through 
constitutional means is no Swaraj. Revolution to them is more 
essential than Swaraj itself. They will continue to preach hatred 
against the classes and the Government, whether it be alien or 
Indian.* Gandhiji is fighting against this mentality. He would 
avoid bitterness at every step. Swaraj attained through violence 
is no good to him. He attaches more importance to non-violence 
than even to Swaraj. His nearest lieutenants believe in his policy. 
But how long is Gandhiji going to live ? It is essential that 
some settlement should be made in Gandhiji’s lifetime which 
may bring the Government and the people closer to each other. 
This would be the beginning of the new kind of education which 
would teach people to believe that the Government is their own 
institution, which should be mended and not ended. If the mode 
of this education is not immediately changed, very serious harm 
will be done. A revolution of the bloody type may become an 
inevitable factor. And this would be the greatest calamity not 
only to India but also to England. Tories may say this would 
be India’s funeral. I say it would be a funeral for both. Gan¬ 
dhiji is the only man who can stand up for the right thing even if 
this may mean his unpopularity.’ 

He said, ‘I have not the least doubt that Mr. Gandhi is the 
most courageous man. I have no doubt about his sincerity and 
I admit he has checked the tide of communism. But supposing 
we can convince Gandhiji of our sincerity and get some sort of 
agreement with him, would the country follow him ?’ I said, ‘Yes. 
I have not the least doubt. And he is capable of resisting in¬ 
justice even though it came from his own men. 7 He said, ‘I 
judge the Congressmen from what is written in the Press which 
is at present very bad.’ I said, ‘We are moving in vicious circles. 
Distrust begets distrust. You have created an atmosphere of 
distrust and thus proved that this theory of partnership by which 
you are swearing is mere cant, when you do not want even to 

* How true it has turned out! 


157 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

see your partners.’ He said, ‘Would you assure Mr. Gandhi 
that we are all very fond of him and that we are ready to give 
him our co-operation?’ I replied, ‘What is the use of my con¬ 
veying the message when you hesitate to come in contact with 
him ?’ He said, ‘Do you want this contact at once or after the 
Bill is passed ?’ I said, ‘No use delaying. The sooner we start 
educating the public on different lines, the better for all of us.’ 
He said, ‘I tell you frankly that I am afraid of seeing him. I am 
a simple man with a small brain. He may be too big for me.’ 
I said, ‘I am sorry to hear this. When you admit that he is sin¬ 
cere and honest, if you want to approach him with sincerity and 
honesty then you should be pleased to get his strength on your 
side.’ And I assured him that a frank and honest man of his 
type would appeal to Gandhiji most. He remarked, ‘Do you 
really believe that a man like myself would appeal to him ?’ I 
said, ‘Yes, because you have impressed me as a straight man/ 
He said, ‘Believe me that I have been 32 years in India and I call 
myself an Indian. I have sided with Indian sentiment and aspi¬ 
rations and I will continue to do so. I do not know whether I 
am an honest man but I can say this much, that I have always 
tried to be honest and straight. I will give my serious thought 
to what you say, but convey to Mr. Gandhi that we wanted to 
have a much better constitution than what is proposed. We 
fought for it. Hoare fought for it, but there is a genuine diffi¬ 
culty on behalf of the Churchill group which could not be ignored. 
Young Tories are really anxious to do good by India. We are all 
sympathetic and sincere. Do not think there is any likelihood 
of the Labour Party giving anything more.’ 

Then we discussed Vallabhbhai. He expressed anxiety to 
meet him and I have arranged a meeting for him at my house 
on the 6th at 5 p.m. 

The sum total of my impressions is this: they are very keen 
on the personal touch but are still hesitating. They have realised 
that the country is not with them. They have also realised that 
Gandhiji is courageous and honest and that if anyone could stand 
up and make a compromise on the constitution, it is Gandhiji. 
And this has kindled a new hope in them. I think their mind is 
working in the right direction. 


158 




CHAPTER XIII 

HINDUS AND MOSLEMS 


Sir Samuel Hoare wrote again on the 30th January 
1935:— 


Personal. 

Dear Mr. Birla, 

Many thanks for your further letter of the 9th January. It 
contains expressions which I was glad to read. It does seem a 
difficult business to persuade India of our real goodwill towards 
the country. I am convinced there is a vast amount of it. Even 
the great majority of those who are opposing our present policy 
are animated by a feeling of goodwill according to their lights. 
That is to say, they are genuinely concerned with the well-being 
of the common people of India and they resist our proposals 
because they honestly do not think them conducive to that end. 
If general assurances will not avail, then we must hope that you 
and your friends will ultimately find the practical evidence of 
sympathy and goodwill that you seek in your experience of the 
new constitution when it is actually working. After all, as we 
say in this country, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I 
tried in a recent speech at Oxford to give a sketch of the new 
Constitution as I imagine it working, and I send a copy in case 
it interests you to read it. You will see that I developed there 
some of the ideas expressed in my last letter to you. I have 
to maintain what you call the human touch with more than one 
school of thought. But I shall try to say more of what is in 
my mind as sympathetically as I can when I speak on the second 
Reading of our Bill next week. 

Yours sincerely, 

Samuel Hoare 


By Airmail 


15 th February, 1935 • 


Dear Sir Samuel, 

Many thanks for your letter and the copy of your speech 
which I have sent for reproduction in the local English daily, the 
Hindusthan Times. 

I quite understand your reasoning which is this :—‘We are 
giving a substantial advance to India but it is not fully realised 


159 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


mow. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and the Indians 
will realise our sincerity and goodwill and the volume of the 
advance when they work the reforms.’ With this feeling on 
your side and with personal contact, establishment of mutual 
understanding should be an easier task still. But evidently, you 
cannot say more at this stage than what the circumstances permit. 

I would only say that a Partnership Deed is a document signed 
by both the partners. The present Bill is signed only by one. 

I submit that either today or at a later stage, you must get the 
signatures of your partners on the Partnership Deed if it is to 
bring forth happy results. The greatest complaint against the 
Lancashire Pact was that it was a thing imposed and not one 
agreed upon. I hope you will avoid that situation in respect 
of the Reforms. Without boring you further with my views, I 
shall leave the matter at that and hope for the best. 

I need hardly add that I quite realise the earnestness and 
sincerity in your letter and this encourages me to entertain a 
hopeful view. 

With the kindest regards, 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 

The Hindu-Moslem question proved a difficulty at 
all the successive Round Table Conferences which pre¬ 
ceded the Government of India Act. Whether there 
should be a common electoral roll and common consti¬ 
tuencies for all communities, or whether there should be 
separate electorates, or yet again whether there should 
be joint electorates with reservation of some specified 
number of sects—all these proposals were vigorously 
discussed. Unfortunately no firm agreement was ever 
reached, hence the tragedy of Partition that finally re¬ 
sulted. Leading Hindu politicians would not take Bapu’s 
advice although they professed to honour him. He was 
all for conciliation and was prepared even to lay down 
his life for Hindu-Moslem unity, whereas more worldly 
politicians saw the whole problem as a struggle for 
loaves and fishes’ for members of their community. On ' 
the Moslem side, Mr. Jinnah was equally intractable. He 


160 


HINDUS AND MOSLEMS 

scorned Bapu’s professions of friendship and regarded 
them as merely part of some general Hindu conspiracy 
to trick' him out of his own ambitious designs for an 
independent Pakistan, of which he would be the Head. 
Indeed it can be said that once he had conceived this 
grandiose design, and so long as he remained the leader 
of his community, all proposals and negotiations for a 
settlement other than Partition, were useless and fore¬ 
doomed to failure. Some of Bapu’s devoted followers, 
however, continued to hope for compromise and 
Dr. Rajendra Prasad devised a formula. Concerning 
this I wrote to Mahadev Desai in a letter dated 21st 
February, 1935:— 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

I have personally advised Rajendra Babu that (if the 
Mohammedan leaders accept the formula which, I fear, they will 
not) we must get the Hindu masses to accept it even if the Hindu 
Sabha leaders maintain an opposition. I am quite optimistic 
about the results, if only the Congress will take up a definite 
attitude. Even the Hindu Sabha might ratify the formula in its 
session provided the Congress leaders work for it. I hope Bapu 
will approve of such a move. Enough mischief has been done 
by communalists. This may be tolerated so long as the Moham¬ 
medans show no inclination for a settlement. But if they indicate 
their desire, then it is up to the Congress leaders to tell the 
Hindus frankly what is in their best interest, and I have not the 
least doubt that the latter would follow. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

A few days later I wrote on the same subject to Bapu:— 

26-2*1935 • 

My dear Bapu, 

Poor Rajendra Babu is in a predicament. Raja Narendranath 
and Pandit Nanakchand both have accepted Rajendra Babu’s 
formula, but there is a great deal of disagreement among the 
Hindus of Bengal and also among the Sikhs. Pandit Malaviyaji 
tries to reason now with this group, now with that, but it is 

161 

11 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

evident he cannot go beyond the scope of the Jinnah-Rajendra 
Babu formula. My own impression is that the people are a prey 
to cowardice. For instance, the Bengal M.L.A.s like the formula 
all right, but have not the courage to sign it. The editor of 
Amrita Bazar Patrika liked it, but the Ananda Bazar Patrika editor 
didn’t. Then there are some hot-headed youths who have been 
described as revolutionaries. Everybody is afraid of them. Nalini 
is coming, but since he hails from East Bengal, he is afraid of 
the mention of the word joint electorate. Sardar Mangal Singh 
and Master Tara Singh like it to some extent, but are likewise 
afraid. Gyani Tara Singh would not touch it with a pair of 
tongs. Gokul Chand Narang and others like it, but are afraid of 
the Sikhs. If a settlement is dependent on the signatures of indi¬ 
viduals, then it must be distinctly understood that it will remain 
an unrealised dream till Doomsday. We are, of course, trying, 
but in the meantime I have suggested to Rajendra Babu: ‘Let there 
be a settlement between the Congress and the League, and let 
the same be placed before the public.’ It is true the Government 
will not act up to it for some time to come ; but, then, this is 
the only way out, and I believe that if Rajendra Babu acts accor¬ 
dingly, the forces working for a settlement will be greatly streng¬ 
thened. Both Rajendra Babu and Vallabhbhai approve of this 
suggestion. Let us see what happens. 

The maps for the Harijan Ashram are with the Committee. 
As soon as they are approved, the work will begin. 

My rams and sheep from Australia have arrived. I am 
leaving for Pilani in about a week’s time and am expecting a 
letter from you. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 
28th February, 1935 . 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

A breakdown of communal negotiations seems to be immi¬ 
nent. Although the Punjab Hindus were not unfavourable towards 
the proposal, the difficulty comes chiefly from Sikhs and the 
Bengal Hindus. Among the Bengal Hindus those who come from 
West Bengal are favourably disposed towards Joint Electorates. 
On the other hand, East Bengal is simply frightened of it, and 
the worst part of the whole thing is that there is not a single 


v. 


162 


HINDUS AND MOSLEMS 


Bengalee leader who can speak out with courage. Even those 
who like the proposal cannot say so openly. 

We had a small conference this morning of Rajendra Babu, 
Bhulabhai, Vallabhbhai and myself, and we thought that it would 
not be desirable to proceed any further. Any prolongation of 
the negotiations in our opinion would simply create further com¬ 
plications. We all agreed that if we could get a Congress-League 
settlement, we should get it. But Jinnah was not prepared for it 
and we also realised that minus Bengal (and even Congress 
Bengalees are not prepared to support us), the pact would be 
meaningless. It is a great tragedy and we can draw a moral 
from it. First, there is not even one Bengalee to support us 
boldly. This may be a condemnation of Bengal, but Congress is no 
less responsible for it. We never backed anyone in Bengal and 
so not one advocate of our viewpoint is to be found. The com¬ 
munal question remains unsolved, and by our failure we stand 
before the world thoroughly humiliated. 

You may have noticed that the Government of India have 
set apart one crore of rupees for village uplift. Thanks to Bapu, 
they have been moved, but I fear the money may not be well 
spent. They are not in touch with realities, and instead of think¬ 
ing and providing food and cloth to the masses, they may think 
of providing radios ! The money will be spent through the 
ministers in the Provinces. I wonder whether the Village Indus¬ 
tries Association should not take the initiative and offer to help 
the Government. If my memory is not playing a trick with me, 
I think Vallabhbhai virtually captured the Government fund when 
he organised the Gujarat Flood and Relief Fund. I think Bapu, 
if he once makes up his mind, can get virtual possession of this 
crore by tackling the Provincial Governments and the Ministers 
properly. This is just for his information. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 


163 


CHAPTER XIV 

PILANI 

Pilani, my pet project, is now such a flourishing institu¬ 
tion that it may be of interest to recall some of its earlier 
days. It has now risen to the status of a university col¬ 
lege where a patch of the Rajputana desert has literally 
blossomed like the rose. But it was not ever thus. 

A letter I wrote for Bapu’s benefit to Mahadev 
Desai began about other matters, but soon got on to the 
subject of Pilani. The first part compares the conduct 
of the Government of Bengal which had recently at least 
publicly admitted and corrected a mistake, and that of 
some of our own leaders, who did not correct public ac¬ 
cusations which they knew to be untrue. I was evidently 
feeling piqued at a scurrilous campaign which the now 
defunct newspaper, the National Call , carried on against 
me despite the fact that friends of mine, who knew that 
its reckless statements sprang from unworthy and purely 
mercenary motives, sat upon its Board of Directors. 

Birla House, New Delhi, 
17th January, 1936. 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

Thanks for your letter. It did not relieve me much. This 
time the serious feature about Bapu’s health is that he is not 
fully responding to the rest or to the treatment. I am glad that 
he is continuing to rest. Please tell Sardar and also Bapu that 
unless he is absolutely fit, he need not come to Delhi at all. Of 
course, the Delhi climate is very good, but if he comes he should 
come only for rest and nothing else. In that case, Sardar should 
accompany him. On the other hand, if Ahmedabad proves 
beneficial to his health, he need not make any change. Sardar 
has asked me to come to Ahmedabad sometime when Bapu is 
there. I have also once to visit the Sabarmati Ashram as its 
trustee, and I will fix up my programme later. If Bapu does not 
come here, I shall pass February in Calcutta. 


164 


PILANI 


I note that you did not like both the letters nor did Bapu 
like them. I should love to have your criticism about my letter. If 
it was couched in language which did not find favour with you, I 
think it is the fault of my mentality. Had I expressed myself 
in a somewhat different way, probably I would have expressed not 
my views but someone else’s views. So, the criticism is not of 
the letter but of my own thoughts, and I should love to hear from 
you what you objected to. I want this for my own guidance. 

As regards the Governor’s reply, I don’t agree with you. 
Why should you expect too little from our own men and too much 
from our opponents? Please don’t misunderstand me if I put 
forward a small analogy. Take the case of the National Call. 
It has abused me for the last three years, in season and out, 
without a tiny finger being raised by Dr. Ansari and other direc¬ 
tors. You may say, and I would agree with you, that poor 
Rajendra Babu is a saint, but when you talk of justice, you cannot 
make allowance for anyone’s saintliness. The Governor, in the 
one case, got the contents expunged, but in this other case, at least 
one of the directors, viz. Dr. Ansari, thinks it not his duty even to 
go into the matter. By writing all this, I am not making any 
complaint against anyone. You know my regard for Rajendra Babu. 
My main object in reminding you of this analogy is that we should 
take human nature as it is, and just as we should make allowance 
for the Directors of the National Call, so should we for the Gover¬ 
nor of Bengal. But I am more eager to have your criticism about 
my own letter or rather about my own mentality. 

About Piiani, I don’t want to write anything in the Harijan. 
It would be sheer advertisement for nothing, as the whole work 
is in an experimental stage. We decided last year that every 
boy in the school and the college—and there are 800 boys in all 
—must drink milk, half a seer per day. It was also decided that 
those who could not afford to pay should be given it free. The 
problem arose as to how to provide the milk, and Pandya, in 
spite of his best efforts, could not get more than 20 cows. Even 
they were not all of a good breed. The villagers call him ‘Kheti 
Master’ and when Pandya brought old cows from Rohtak and 
Hissar districts, they made jokes at his expense. And the milk 
problem remained unsolved. On the other hand, in the village 


165 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

itself, you can get good milk at the rate of 26 pounds per rupee. 
So, Pandya was asked to buy milk and provide the same for the 
boys until we have sufficient cows. This has upset Pandya. To 
purchase nearly 6 cwt. of milk, boil it and then sell it to the boys 
is as large a problem for him as one of my big mills is to me. 
His discomfiture is something comic. But the boys have now 
begun to get milk, and we hope that within the next 10 days every¬ 
one will be drinking milk. 

Every 6 months we have a medical examination, and the effect 
of a scientific regulation of diet will be worth noting. Spices have 
been prohibited in the kitchen, and we are now considering con¬ 
trolling the kitchen instead of allowing the boys to make their 
own arrangement. We may even open a class for cooking. 

The Harijan Hostel is progressing, and one boy who is read¬ 
ing in the upper classes has been brought to live in the larger 
hostels where caste Hindu boys reside. The Harijan boy has 
been taken without the slightest objection from the other boys. 

We have now got about 150 sheep. The four Australian sheep 
gave birth to two lambs and a further two are to be born shortly. 
Thus we shall have about 10 Australian animals in the near future. 
The Australian rams were mated with some Bikaneri sheep and 
a cross breed has been produced. But Pandya did not keep 
a correct record of the quantity of the wool produced per sheep, 
so we could not make a proper comparison of the Australian sheep 
with the Bikaneri and the Hissar type. 

From the financial point of view, the dairy has not been a 
failure. If we don’t take the depreciation into account, we have 
lost nothing. We sell milk at the rate of 3 pice per lb. and on this 
basis the income and expense per cow come to about 10 rupees. 
If we don’t take depreciation into account, we also don’t take into 
account the new production. 

The Holstein bull that I brought from England has begun 
mating. It is a fine animal and is the talk of the village. Lord 
Linlithgow told me in England that from the point of view of 
milk, the Holstein breed would be quite a success, and so I am 
making this experiment. Sahebji Maharaj also supports this view. 
Parmeshweri Prasad is against it and Pandya has got no special 
view about this breed. 


166 


PILANI 


In the agricultural experiment, we lost about Rs. 1,500 last 
year. We have discovered that we lose Rs. 4 per bigha in agricul¬ 
ture, and 50 we have decided to leave this line alone. Only 50 
bighas will be cultivated for producing good seeds. 

We are running the following departments in handicrafts: 
carpentry, cap making, leather work, blanket weaving, carpet 
weaving, dyeing, printing and bleaching. To this we are also 
adding this year tailoring, masonry, book binding, toy making 
and agriculture. We propose to take also poultry farming after 
some time. We have decided that from the next session, every boy 
from the lowest class to the Intermediate classes must take any 
one or two of the above subjects and devote at least 3 periods 
a week to them, so that when the Intermediate boy leaves the 
college, he will know at least one or two of the above subjects 
thoroughly. This will also make the industrial department self- 
supporting as we shall get free labour from the students. 

Our expenses just now amount to Rs. 80,000. This is 
rather heavy you may say, but if you want to give a good educa¬ 
tion to 800 boys, in my opinion, Rs. 100 per head is not too 
much. In course of time, we may begin to get fees from the boys 
and that may help us to some extent. The physique of the boys 
is fine. Four things are compulsory : mass prayer, mass exercise 
and sport, milk-drinking and swadhyaya of the selected books. 
But although the boys are physically in very good state and the 
examination results are also very satisfactory, I cannot say how 
far they are superior in character to the boys from other colleges. 
Some students tell me that in many colleges in big towns boys 
get addicted to drink, whereas in our village the only drink is 
either water or milk. f 

Besides the College, School and the Girls School, we are just 
now running 15 village schools and we are increasing the number 
to 20 next year. For the village schools, we have decided this 
year that the teachers should take it upon themselves to plant 
fruit trees in every home. I am sending about 2000 orange 
plants this spring from Delhi. Oranges thrive very well in Raj- 
putana. They were unknown 15 years back, but we were the first 
to make experiments and about 2000 plants have been grown in 
my garden, out of which about 200 bore fruits this year. It will be 


167 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


a sight worth seeing if we can plant one tree for every home in a 
radius of 50 miles. 

Please give my pranams to Sardar.* I have just had his 
letter and am not replying to him separately. I thought this 
would do. 


* Sardar Patel 


Yours sincerely, 
Ghanshyamdas 


CHAPTER XV 
LONDON CONTACTS 


Still seeking to establish personal contacts between 
British leaders on the one hand and Gandhiji and the 
Congress leaders on the other, I went to London in the 
summer of 1935. I had in my enterprise the blessings 
of Bapu and also of the Governor of Bengal, both of 
whom gave me letters of introduction to important 
persons. My first interview was with Sir Findlater 
Stewart of the India Office, whom I found very sympathe¬ 
tic. Fie evidently felt some affection for Gandhiji, whom 
he had met when he visited India and also in London 
during the Round Table Conference. On the 14th June 
I wrote a full report of this interview to Gandhiji, from 

which I need only quote the last paragraph :— 

• 

He made enquiries about your health and said how he 
remembered the three happy hours on a Sunday when you talked 
with him. I said that this was a very good argument in my 
favour—‘there is no political agreement between you two and 
yet you cherish a happy memory of your meeting. This comes 
from the personal touch. The personal touch is lacking just 
now. It is through this that we ought to establish friendship.’ 
He will write to me again. 

A few days later I met Mr. Butler, now Chancellor 
of the Exchequer but then Under-Secretary at the India 
Office. Of this conversation I also sent a long report 
to Gandhiji. To me it was already evident that the 
English in London sincerely believed that a great step 
forward towards India’s self-government was about to be 
taken as soon as the Bill became law, whereas in India 
there was an equally genuine feeling that it would be a 
great step backwards. Mr. Butler saw the point and we 
discussed alternative suggestions for breaking the dead¬ 
lock, One of my suggestions was that the next Viceroy 


169 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

should come to India with definite instructions to estab¬ 
lish contact immediately. Another proposal was that 
either the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary 
should come to India and make contacts. There was 
still another alternative, namely that Gandhiji should be 
invited to London, possibly for some other ostensible rea¬ 
son, but really for conversations. Butler was quite 
pathetic on the subject. He said: ‘We feel dishearten¬ 
ed when we think that this Bill for which we sacrificed 
our health, our friends and our time, is supposed to be a 
retrograde step. Sir Samuel Hoare lost his health; I 
stood up to the strain because I was a young man, but 
all the same I did undergo a great strain and this is the 
reward.’ He said, ‘Lord Halifax has made India the 
mission of his life,’ and urged me to meet Mr. Baldwin, 
the Prime Minister, and Lord Zetland, the Secretary of 
State, as soon as possible. 

I also had pleasant talks with Sir George Schuster. 
My report to Gandhiji records:— 

I told him what I was doing in my village. He was very 
interested, and said he preferred fresh milk to dry powder. He 
asked me to talk to Linlithgow about it. He asked me to come 
whenever I want any help and he will do his best. 

Interviews (mostly at meals) rapidly followed with 
Sir Basil Blackett, Sir Henry Page-Croft, Conservative 
Leader, and a whole group of Manchester leaders, whom 
Mr. Kirkpatrick invited to lunch at the House of Com¬ 
mons. Then came a long talk with the late Lord 
Lothian, that real friend of India. We can see now that, 
as things turned out, he put the position very correctly. 
The Government of India Act proved to be such an 
earnest desire for advance that the Congress decided to 
accept office and form ministries in what were then cal 
led provinces and are now called states. But for the 
War, which broke out four years later, a united federal 
India at the centre might also have been achieved and 


170 


LONDON CONTACTS 


Partition avoided. War, however, changed everything. 
Not only did the Congress Governments resign, but 
throughout the East nationalism received a tremendous 
fillip and, in the middle of the War, had reached such a 
passionate intensity that Gandhiji was successfully able 
to launch his Quit India campaign. Mr. Attlee and the 
British Government also fulfilled their wartime promises. 
I reported Lord Lothian as saying:— 

You who have not worked any constitution cannot realise 
what great power you are going to wield. If you look at the 
Constitution it looks as if all powers are vested in the Governor- 
General and the Governor. But is not every power here vested 
in the King? Everything is done in the name of the King and 
has the King ever interfered ? We are a constitutionally minded 
people. Once the power passes into the hands of the legislature, 
the Governor or the Governor-General is never going to interfere. 
Of course he would interfere if there were danger to law and order 
or to the tranquillity of the country, but surely it is not your 
intention to disturb the peace. The Civil Service will always be 
helpful. The Labour Party in the old days abused the Civil Ser ¬ 
vice in England, but immediately they came into power they 
became the Civil Service’s best friends. You too will realise this. 
We are a disciplined people. They (the civil servants) will give 
you their advice but once a policy is laid down they will carry it 
out loyally and faithfully. I interrupted and pointed out the 
difference between the Civil Service in England and in India, 
where it is alien. I said, ‘You have to accelerate the pace of 
Indianisation,’ and he agreed. He said, ‘The greatest danger 
you will now have to fight will be against control by the Military, 
but you have got everything else.’ But he agreed with me that 
the psychology in India had to be improved and that it was very 
bad just now. He said, ‘We could not help it. We had to fight 
the die-hards here. You cannot realise what great courage Mr. 
Baldwin and Sir Samuel Hoare have shown. It was a great 
triumph for Liberalism and we could not improve the psychology 
in India because we did not want to irritate the die-hards. They 
called the Bill a surrender and so we had to talk in different langu¬ 
age. Besides this, another difficulty was Lord Willingdon. He has 
great distrust of the Mahatma and he is not a very brainy man. 


171 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

But in the middle of July the Bill will be on the statute book and 
there will be a change in the Viceroy next April, so we shall 
have to do something.’ I said, ‘I am impatient. I do not want 
to wait until next April. By that time the die will be cast.’ 
Indian opinion had been educated to distrust the incoming reforms 
and by next April preparations would be made to fight the next 
election on the issue of wrecking them. He agreed that something 
should be done immediately and asked if I had any constructive 
suggestion. I said: first personal contact and then a pact. I 
said either Anderson should talk, or the Secretary of State should 
come to India, or Mr. Gandhi should be invited here. He said 
he entirely agreed that something should be done to change the 
psychology immediately and he hoped that Lord Zetland would be 
able to do something. He said he would talk to Lord Zetland, 
Lord Halifax and Mr. MacDonald. I should see Mr. MacDonald. 
He would write to Mr. MacDonald about me and then I should fix 
up an interview. 

Lord Zetland was then Secretary of State for India. 
During his father’s lifetime he was known as Lord 
Ronaldshay and had been Governor of Bengal. There 
he interested himself in Hinduism and wrote a book 
called The Heart of Ary av art a . I went to see him in 
London and found him a good listener. One of his rare 
interruptions was to ask if Mr. Gandhi was a practical 
man. I said, Hoare, Halifax, Findlater Stewart and 
Smuts could give Mr. Gandhi a certificate on that point. 
Lord Zetland then asked, ‘But what about his book Home 
RuleT I replied that he had set certain ideals to be 
achieved, but until they were achieved we might not be 
able to live up to them, and I cited his opening of hospitals 
built by Lajpat Rai and C. R. Das, although he criticised 
hospitals in his book. Lord Zetland added that Gandhiji 
himself had had an operation. I said, ‘You should not 
doubt his practicability. He is not after quantity but 
quality; it is spirit that he wants.’ Lord Zetland said, ‘I 
very much appreciate your point. I hate misunderstand¬ 
ing. When I was in Calcutta I could not understand 
why there could be any misunderstanding. English 


172 


LONDON CONTACTS 


people have got misgivings about Congress. The ‘re¬ 
pudiation of debts’ and all such talk has frightened them. 
Not only did the Government’s opponents fear, but pri¬ 
vate letters from supporters said that they were doing 
something disastrous.’ He wished he could make friends 
in India realise how they had to fight here against these 
heavy odds to get the Bill passed. I said I could get 
them to realise this only if the right atmosphere were 
created. The policy of ‘see me not’ had spoilt the atmos¬ 
phere. 

I cited Quetta affairs. He had the Gandhi-Wiiling- 
don correspondence before him. I read the rele¬ 
vant portions and told him to look at the difference 
between the two attitudes. He realised this and said, 
‘Now what can be done?’ I said that a Willingdon- 
Gandhi meeting would be no use, yet it must come first 
as otherwise other Governors could not meet Gandhi. 
He said he realised this and I should keep in touch with 
Findlater Stewart. He would do his best to help and 
would talk to me again. 

I sent a lengthy report to Gandhiji:— 

29th June, 1935. 

My dear Bapu, 

It is a very slow process, meeting people in London, as they 
are booked for weeks and weeks ahead. I am seeing Halifax 
on the 5th, that is, a month after my arrival, and Hoare is so busy 
with Germany, Italy and China that he has asked me to wait and 
remind him again and again about an interview. Yet I know that 
both of them are keeping in touch with my work. All those whom 
I have seen have shown great sympathy—I do not think mere 
lip sympathy—with my mission. The most helpful of them is 
Sir Findlater Stewart and I think he counts a lot. He is very 
friendly towards you, never tired of singing your praises, and 
when I gave him your letter he read it with great affection and 
emotion. He has promised and is giving every help. Maffey* 
tells me that he has influence, brain and determination, and I am 

* Now Lord Rugby. 


173 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

told he is pro-Indian except where the direct interest of his ser¬ 
vice clashes. I realise more than ever that the men on the spot 
for the day-to-day administration, and permanent officials here for 
moulding wider policies, are the chief people to deal with. Minis¬ 
ters of course count, but permanent officials no less. Lord 
Zetland, after showing great sympathy with my object, told me 
significantly to keep in touch with Findlater Stewart. So I am 
sticking to this man and all my important interviews are arranged 
through him. And after two interviews with him, lasting two 
and a half hours, he has told me that he agrees with me in principle 
and that something precise has to be put on paper now and that is 
up to him to tell me the next step. Now a little more detail about 
my work. 

I have met the following. Sir Findlater Stewart twice and 
talked for two and a half hours. Butler, Under Secretary of 
State; a very charming and intelligent man although very young. 
Talked for one hour and am lunching with him this week. Zetland 
talked for forty-five minutes and am meeting him again after the 
Bill is passed in the House of Lords. Lothian, talked for forty- 
five minutes and I am meeting him again after the Bill is 
passed. Lord Derby I am meeting again as many times as 
I like. Sir Henry Page-Croft I met twice. Lunched with the 
Manchester Group in the House of Commons. Lunched with Sir 
Henry Strakosch and he has asked me to lunch with him when¬ 
ever I need his help. Lunched with Sir Thos. Catto and many 
other important City men, who have asked me to lunch again. 
Sir George Schuster twice. Lunched with Sir Basil Blackett and 
am lunching again. Lunched with Croft, Private Secretary to the 
Secretary of State. Saw Mr. Bone of the Manchester Guardian , 
and Mr. Crozier of the same paper will meet me at Manchester. 
And now during this week I am meeting Lord Linlithgow, Lord 
Halifax and Mr. MacDonald. Appointments are all fixed except 
for Sir Samuel Hoare. Findlater Stewart is going to arrange for 
an interview with Mr. Baldwin. Schuster said, don’t waste any 
time over Simon. Lothian said, leave Lloyd George alone for 
the time being. Derby said, I must see Salisbury and Sir Austen 
Chamberlain. He said that among the die-hards, Lord Salisbury 
and Sir Henry Page-Croft are the most honest men. He has 
asked me to go to Manchester when he will invite me to lunch 
with influential Manchester friends. Lord Reading is ill. I am 


174 


LONDON CONTACTS 


also seeing more City men. Most of the important members of 
the Labour Party are lunching with me this week at the House of 
Commons. Later on I will see Church people and other journa¬ 
lists, but I have realised now that for my job Halifax, Zetland, 
Hoare, Butler, Baldwin and Lothian and, last but not least, Sir 
Findlater Stewart are more important than the others, so I will 
spend my time more or less on this group. Findlater Stewart has 
already promised to give me the next step so I am now in his 
hands. 

Now about my conversation. Firstly, I told them that it is 
not a political stunt but a genuine feeling among Indians that, far 
from being an advance, the Bill is a retrograde step calculated to 
tighten the British grip. At this our friends here raise their 
hands in astonishment and cannot understand how Indians can 
think so. Secondly, I told them that I recognised their sincerity 
when they believed that it was a great advance. It would be so 
if there were the spirit behind the reforms, but there is no such 
spirit in India today when we deal with the man on the spot. ‘I 
have felt all along,’ I said, ‘that it is not the contents of the Bill 
but the spirit that will count. Without the spirit the Bill is a 
most reactionary piece of legislation.’ I pointed out to them that 
after all, on every point, the last say rests with the Governor- 
General and the Governors, and if the Governors and Governor- 
General used their powers, then the regime will be a first-class 
autocracy. If, on the other hand, they act up to the analogy of 
the constitutional monarch—an analogy advanced by every one 
of them—then the Bill could bring in a very good regime. So it 
all depends on the spirit in which it will be worked. I admitted 
that friends in England were full of goodwill and sympathy, but 
these sentiments did not cross the seas, since the actions of those 
in charge of the Indian Administration in India were in contrast 
with the feelings expressed here. I cited a very recent incident, 
viz., the case of Quetta. I have handed over to them the corres¬ 
pondence that passed between you and Lord Willingdon. I tried 
to show the contrast between the two, viz., your request and his 
reply. Flow, in such an atmosphere, could one believe that when 
today we were not allowed to see our own brethren in distress, we 
would soon be allowed to wield wider powers ? It is this op¬ 
pressive atmosphere in India which makes us believe that the 
reforms are a retrograde step. In order to create a different 

175 


V 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

psychology about the reforms so that they may be worked and 
the intention of our friends here may be fulfilled and the present 
strife ended once and for all, a better spirit should be cultivated 
in India without wasting much time. And I also told them how 
I had tried to cultivate that spirit at Delhi and failed. Thirdly, I 
told them how, in the absence of a friendly spirit, the Bill was 
likely to bring greater bitterness between the two nations. The 
present atmosphere, I said, was causing a growth of irresponsibility 
all round. The Civil Service was getting irresponsible and 
indisciplined. I cited how, in the case of the Khan Sahib, the 
Home Member could not do anything because the subordinates 
stood up against the Khan Sahib. Civilians in India just now 
thought their only function was to maintain law and order. And 
therefore every suggestion, even a good one from the popular side 
must be opposed. Irresponsibility among Congressmen made 
them suspect every move of the Government. The right-wing 
would, as a consequence, get weaker and the left-wing stronger. 
Even the right-wingers in the absence of any proper understand¬ 
ing were likely to work for the wrecking of the reforms. The 
present atmosphere was causing demoralisation of the Moham¬ 
medans, who thought that the Government would condone their 
worst actions. ‘Gandhiji has kept his head above water in all 
these difficulties,’ I tell them. ‘But you are killing a man who 
is your best friend in the world.’ I tell them that the present 
atmosphere is causing such demoralisation that it is almost im¬ 
possible to do any constructive work in India. The necessity 
of increasing the purchasing power of the masses about which so 
much is being said by the English economists cannot be taken in 
hand so long as there is a gulf between the two. 

That the rulers should be spending all their time on the 
maintenance of law and order and the people spending theirs in 
fighting the Government is a most deplorable phenomenon. I 
therefore tell them that this order must be reversed. The first 
step should be the establishment of personal contact. The second 
step should be to send the best men as Governors and Governor- 
General so as to avoid any friction between the Ministers and the 
Governors. I tell them that it must be borne in mind that the 
Congress has no interest in merely controlling the Government and 
running its machinery efficiently. If they accept office they will 
do so only to perform some constructive work. Retrenchment, 


' 176 


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village uplift, physical culture, sanitation, expansion of education, 
adjustment of taxation in order to give relief to the poor and 
transfer the burden to the rich, provide more employment for 
Indians, help industries:—banking, shipping and insurance; make 
steady progress towards control of the military and full self- 
government. This is the programme which alone could attract 
the Congressmen to work the reforms. This is what I have told 
them. 

In reply to this they say, The Bill will certainly give all the 
power to the Congressmen that you want. You fellows cannot 
imagine the alarm that this Bill has caused, not only among the 
opponents of the Bill but also among the supporters. Opponents 
revolted and opposed the Bill and called it a surrender. Sup¬ 
porters supported because of their loyalty, but privately they over¬ 
whelmed us with warnings about its disastrous effect on the rule 
of Great Britain.’ ‘It took great courage,’ they say, ‘on the part 
of Baldwin, Hoare and Halifax to get this Bill through. It is the 
grossest injustice to them and all other well-wishers of India not 
to appreciate their courage, the sacrifice of their party and friend¬ 
ly ties, and the strain on their health which this Bill has caused. 
There could be no unkinder cut to them than to say that they 
have done all this to tighten the British grip. Where was the 
necessity ? Was the grip any weaker ? Tremendous power has 
been transferred, of which you have no idea. British rule is 
ending. No one can take the power back once it is transferred, 
and it has been transferred. Of course in the Bill it looks as if 
all the powers are reserved to Governors and the Governor- 
General, but does not this correspond to the position of the King 
and the House of Lords in England ? The safeguards are in your 
interests. Who would be fool enough to meddle with your affairs ? 
We are a constitutionally-minded people and no party in England 
would tolerate any Governor or Governor-General meddling with 
the affairs of the Minister, so long as he does not want to create 
chaos or anarchy. The only battle that you will have to fight 
will be the battle for the control of the Army. But if you control 
the whole Government machinery and work tactfully it will be 
easy for you to fight and win that battle. The Instrument of 
Instructions provides joint consultation with ministers in military 
matters. Congressmen, never having worked the Government 
machinery, do not realise that the safeguards are simply a lock 


12 


177 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

and key for the safety of the house and not a hindrance for the 
man who wants to go and live in it. You are talking of small 
things like village uplift, education and all that; but it will be 
your Government entirely. You have to lay down your policy 
and carry your legislature with you and then carry out any pro¬ 
gramme you like. (It is no use my pointing out to them that 
80 per cent of the revenue is already mortgaged to military service 
and debts, as it would be futile for me to open this question 
further at this stage.) No one is going to interfere with your 
plans/ As regards the prevailing atmosphere in India, they say, 
‘We fully recognise it, but we could not help it in the past. We 
could not say anything from this end which might help the agita¬ 
tion of the die-hards. It was not an easy thing for Mr. Baldwin, 
Lord Halifax and Sir Samuel Hoare, all Tories, to carry this Bill 
through a Tory Parliament with the die-hards fighting like mad 
bulls. We wish you could make your friends in India realise 
this. Of course, had there been a different Viceroy probably 
the atmosphere might have been better. But somehow or other 
the Viceroy and Gandhi did not hit it off. But now that this 
Bill is passed, something has to be done to improve the psycho¬ 
logy. We admit that the psychology counts more than the con¬ 
tents of the Bill. We must, if possible, get Gandhi on our side. 
We entirely agree with you on this point; the only question is 
—how to do it ?’ 

I am rather impressed with their sincerity. When men like 
Zetland, Butler, Lothian and Sir Findlater Stewart talk in such 
a manner, assuring me that the safeguards are not meant for 
meddling with the affairs of the ministers, I cannot help feeling 
that they are in earnest. I cannot believe that all this talk 
merely represents hollow sentiments. Mere sweet words have 
never deceived me in my business dealings and I should be very 
surprised at myself if I am carried away in this respect by their 
excellent behaviour and eloquence. In any case you should 
judge things for yourself, because even if I am deceived I am 
making no commitments, except this, that they must establish 
personal contact with you and come to an agreement about the 
working of the reforms. This ends the gist of the talks, my 
pleading and their reply. I hope it will not all end in smoke. 

The following questions or suggestions come from those who 
matter, and are rather significant : 


178 


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(1) ‘With whom should we come to an understanding ?’ 
I reply, ‘The Mohammedans should be ruled out because they 
do not oppose the reforms. We have no desire to encroach upon 
their rights. The Liberals have no following and so need not 
be worried about. Communists can also be ruled out because 
they are part of the Congress, but if they are to be treated sepa¬ 
rately they need not be considered, because they have no desire 
to compromise. The only body left therefore is the Congress, 
and in dealing with the Congress you have to deal with Gandhiji 
because he alone can deliver the goods.’ 

(2) ‘Would Gandhi be able to deliver the goods ?’ I reply, 
‘Yes’. 

(3) ‘What would be the condition for an understanding?’ 

I reply: ‘Mutual trust and friendship should be the basis. 

The constitution should be worked with a view to India’s pro¬ 
gress, and towards Dominion Status.’ They reply to this that 
Dominion Status or friendship is not going to flow from a legal 
document; it will only come out of hard work and will be 
realised more by the efforts of India than the efforts of Great 
Britain. But of course they say, ‘We will always be helpful.’ 

(4) ‘We hate the words Pact or Treaty.’ They say there 
is a strong prejudice against these words just now in England. 
Prejudices on both sides must be recognised. I reply to this, 
‘I don’t care about the words so long as the substance is achieved. 
Are they not sending Anthony Eden to France, Italy and other 
places to talk matters over and get mutual understanding ? Are 
they not still talking to Ireland ?’ To this they reply, ‘Suppose 
after personal contact and understanding there was a solemn 
declaration from this side, say from the King and a reply by 
the Congress ?’ To this I say, ‘I do not mind, so long as there 
is a mutual understanding about the obligations of both sides.’ I 
tell them that a pact is better in their interests since it binds the 
other side, but I don’t mind anything so long as what is meant 
is understood. 

(5) ‘Who is to meet Mr. Gandhi?’ I say, ‘Obviously the 
Viceroy has to break the ice because otherwise others could not 
talk ; but merely meeting the Viceroy would not be very helpful. 
Someone else must handle Mr. Gandhi. I suggest Anderson.’ 
I am asked, ‘What about Emerson?* Does Gandhi like him?’ 
I say, ‘I do not know.’ They tell me he is very good. 

* Sir Herbert Emerson, Governor of the Punjab, 1933-38. 


179 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

(6) ‘Is Gandhi a practical man?’ I reply, ‘Halifax, Hoare, 
Smuts and Findlater Stewart can give him a certificate. Myself, 
a businessman, I would not run after a sentimentalist.’ 

(7) ‘Can Mr. Gandhi make the following statement after 
we come in touch with him and after our solemn declaration : 
This Reform is not good, it is not what I wanted, but I am assur¬ 
ed of goodwill and support for doing constructive work, and to 
help my country I will give it a fair chance ?’ To this I reply, 
‘Yes, he may say this. I am very hopeful provided you know 
how to deal with him. If you can be honest with him, lay your 
heart open and put all your difficulties before him, he will help.’ 

(8) Then they say, ‘The greatest difficulty about Mr. Gandhi 
is that he has no constitutional position, although revered and 
loved by nine-tenths of his people. We English people are 
accustomed to dealing with men who have some constitutional 
position.’ To this I reply, ‘Would you wait until he becomes a 
Minister, because in that case you will have to wait until Dooms¬ 
day ?’ Then I am told, ‘Unfortunately his meeting with the 
Viceroy has assumed the importance of the meeting of two 
enemy leaders.’ To this I reply, ‘It is your own doing. Gandhiji 
met Lord Chelmsford as a friend and again Lord Reading and 
again Lord Irwin before the pacts were concluded.’ 

(9) ‘Could you wait until the next Viceroy comes?’ I 
say, ‘It would be very late.’ 

I hope these questions will give you just the sense of the 
way the wind is blowing. 

Now a few words about Lord Halifax, Butler and Lord 
Derby. Butler deliberately asked me about our impression in 
India of Lord Halifax. I said, ‘He is still loved but we think 
he is a discredited man and has lost his influence over Indian 
affairs and that Englishmen in India dislike him most.’ He said, 
‘I wish to correct you. Nothing is further from the truth than 
to say that he is discredited. He is very influential and he has 
not forgotten India. India is the mission of his life.’ Mr. Butler 
is a very capable and intelligent man, with a wide outlook. He 
has no tinge of racial bias or superiority. He is very distressed 
at the way in which we suspect their motives. He is giving me 
every possible help. But the most charming personality I have 
come across is Lord Derby. He stands on no ceremony. When 
I wanted to see him he came at once to my hotel rather than 


180 





LONDON CONTACTS 


see me at his own place. He will arrange any interviews for 
me that I want. He has told me to ring him up whenever I 
need his help and he will either come to me or send for me. He 
talked to me with great paternal affection and I liked the man 
very much. 

Now I think it is your turn to write to me. You may hand 
over what you have to say to my man who will post it from 
Delhi by air. I hope I am representing you correctly and faith¬ 
fully. I have to work hard against genuine misunderstanding 
in this atmosphere. When I got Mahadevbhai’s letter from 
Quetta my heart simply broke. What a great contrast between 
the atmosphere prevailing there and the one prevailing here ! I 
did not realise the difference between the two in India. I think 
this is mostly the fault of the machinery, and though I find men 
most congenial and nice I feel doubtful whether the machinery 
will move. The parts of the machinery will be fully oiled, that 
is ail I can say. I see in your every action an effort to remove 
misunderstanding. Only you could do it under such exaspera¬ 
ting circumstances. An eminent friend remarked : ‘We are 
accustomed to constitutional practices. Mr. Lloyd George was 
a very big man so long as he was in office, but now, however 
we may respec#him or anyone else, we can owe no allegiance 
to him or give any effect to his views so long as he is out of 
office. You should not forget that Mr. Gandhi is out of office. 
It will be quite different when you have your own Government. 
Civilians will simply be your slaves ; today they cannot be. The 
change will not be a miracle, because they are taught to obey 
only their masters.’ Well, let me wait for the next step from 
Sir Findlater Stewart. 

July was a busy month for me and it began with an 
interview with the Lord President of the Council, 
Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, who had recently handed over 
the Premiership to Mr. Baldwin. Here are my notes of 
our talk:— 

‘How is India ?’ he asked. I said, ‘Very unhappy.’ He 
said, ‘Everybody is.’ ‘But our case is different,’ I said. ‘You 
have given us a constitution which you think is a sure advance 
and is likely to lead us towards our goal, whereas we think this 
is a retrograde step likely to tighten your grip. We feel this 


181 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

because of the atmosphere in India. We are treated like lepers ; 
with distrust. You deliver sympathetic speeches but they do not 
carry us very far. We want sympathetic action. There is no 
human contact. Whenever we offer co-operation for any good 
thing, it is refused, and in this atmosphere you want us to appre¬ 
ciate the reforms. It is natural that we should suspect them, and 
your motives. You are throwing away seed without properly 
cultivating the land and providing water for irrigation. You can¬ 
not expect a good crop.’ He said, ‘You are absolutely right. 
Human contact is very essential but there have been difficulties. 
The Viceroy is a good man in himself and Mr. Gandhi is a good 
man too, but they cannot come together. It is like two pieces 
of good music. They are both good if separately sung, but if 
sung together there is no harmony ; that is the trouble.’ ‘Now 
who is going to be the next Viceroy ?’ he asked. I smiled and 
said ‘You put me that question as a man who does not know 
the secret. How can I tell ? But some talk of Linlithgow or 
the Governor of Bengal, Lord Lothian and Lord Percy.’ I also 
added, ‘Your name and Hoare’s name too have been mentioned.’ 
He became quite serious and said, ‘You see a Provincial Governor 
cannot become a Viceroy. Lothian, I can say, is out of the 
picture, but about myself I would love to go if my health would 
permit, but it does not. You know how I love India. I was 
responsible for the continuance of the R.T.C. principle. When 
the Government changed I made it a condition that this question 
should not be dropped. And we should revive the R.T.C. prin¬ 
ciple now again, not on that scale but on a smaller scale. We 
must make a sympathetic beginning. Many men want the safe¬ 
guards to be used immediately, and if the Congress comes into 
conflict the safeguards will come into prominence, but otherwise 
nobody here wants to use the safeguards. Congress will be play¬ 
ing into the hands of the die-hards if they begin with the idea 
of smashing the constitution, but we, on our part, have to ensure 
a sympathetic beginning. The whole thing is like a garden. You 
have to develop it with patience, and you have to keep patience 
but you must accept our pledge of sympathetic action. I entirely 
agree with you that something should be done to ensure that 
atmosphere.’ 

I said, ‘You have said something more beautiful than I 
wanted to say.’ Then he went on thinking aloud, just looking 


182 


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at the ceiling. ‘How to do it. It is a problem. We have not 
made a beginning as yet. It is just as much a problem as it is 
for me to find the rooms in my new office. I do not know 
all the alleys and the lanes. I am just getting accustomed to this 
new building, but yours is only a passing phase, though a big 
phase ; it must be faced. It would b3 stupid not to face it but 
I do not know how to help you. I think I should go to India 
in the winter and see Mr. Gandhi. I may go for a rest and as a 
tourist. There are difficulties in the way of my going, but I 
wish I could go. I will mark time. If I go, I must see my 
friend Mr. Gandhi. I do not care what they think about it, I 
must see him, and I know that if I see him I shall be able to 
settle affairs. But just now I do not see the light. I have just 
retired from very heavy work and I am still suffering from in¬ 
somnia. I am settling down in my new house. It is all confusion 
and chaos in my new house. No peg to hang my coat on and 
no shelf to keep my books in. You know I am a poor man. I 
will be able to put the house in order in a week’s time, then I 
will think about things more, but just now I cannot see how I 
could help.’ During the course of the conversation he repeated 
thrice his desire to go to India and then I said that if he could 
not go, someone else should talk to Gandhiji. Why should not 
the Governor of Bengal talk ? 

He felt proud of the Governor of Bengal because he was a 
Scot. ‘But you have to help,’ I said. ‘You are a Cabinet Minis¬ 
ter, you could do a lot.’ He said, ‘Did you talk to the India 
Office ?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Lord Zetland is a good man,’ he said. 
I said, ‘Yes, but I do not know whether he has the same deter¬ 
mination as Hoare.’ He said, ‘Hoare was convinced about the 
justice of the case in defending the Bill. Zetland already sympa¬ 
thises with India, therefore his support may be rather remote, 
but I do not know. In any case the initiative has to come from 
the Secretary of State. We meet in Cabinet once a week only 
for two hours and so I do not see much of Zetland, but if he takes 
up something it must go through. He is wide awake to the fact 
that if the reforms do not get good support, his reputation must 
suffer. Therefore they will all listen to you.’ I said, ‘Lord 
Zetland agrees with me, and Sir Findlater Stewart helps me a lot, 
but no one yet talks of the next step.’ I told him how many men 
I had met. He remarked, ‘You are spreading your net very wide, I 


183 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

am glad. But don’t think they are not thinking of the next step. 
They are thinking of the next step. They are thinking about it 
but they cannot speak just now. They must listen to you. Don’t 
go to India with the impression that here is no next step. You 
will succeed. I wish I could go to India, but meantime I will 
think over the matter as to how to help you. You should see 
me again.’ 

I told him that in order to get rid of his insomnia, he 
should make changes in his diet, and how I had managed it. He 
said, ‘I want a doctor friend otherwise I do not believe in doctors. 
I breakfast with Horder every morning and that helps me a lot/ 
He talked of old days when he went to India and of some of the 
old men who were very nice. 

* * * * 

Still preaching my gospel of personal contacts, 1 had an 
interview the next day with Lord Linlithgow, lunch with 
Mr. and Mrs. Butler, tea with Mr. Attlee and Mr. Lans- 
bury, and dined with Labour Members at the House of 
Commons. Here is my note about this function:— 

Major Attlee, Rhys Davies, W. Paling, Seymour Cocks, Tom 
Smith, Tom Williams, Morgan Jones, John Wilmot and Charles 
Edwards were present. I told them some home truths and saw 
some of them were irritated. Almost all of them unintelligent 
and dull. I said, ‘You want us to put our faith in your sympathy 
and goodwill while you continue to distrust our motives and you 
decide for us every time what is good. Even when our people 
are in distress, you alone can decide what is best in the circum¬ 
stances.’ Attlee put forward the Government point of view and 
said both sides were at fault. ‘You made a blunder in not settling 
things in 1930 when we were in power.’ I said, ‘You could not 
have given us any Bill because the House of Lords would have 
blocked your way. You Labour members are accustomed to 
deliver speeches in highflown language with no intention of fulfil- 
ing the promises you make.’ This irritated some of them. I 
diverted the conversation to economics but again India came in. 
I said, ‘Your present standard of living rests upon external trade 
and foreign investments. You know that external trade is dimi¬ 
nishing, and some time foreign investments will have to be written 


184 


LONDON CONTACTS 


off. Will you then be able to maintain your present standard only 
with your internal production ?’ They said, ‘No.’ I asked, ‘How 
do you then reconcile your ambition for a still higher standard 
with your advocacy of self-determination for India ?’ They did 
not like this anomaly to be pointed out. I told them stories 
that I had heard. I asked a prominent Labour member why they 
put Mr. Benn in the India Office when he knew littl^ of India. 
‘Because,’ I was toid, ‘a brilliant man would come into conflict with 
the Services here and the Government of India there and Mr. 
MacDonald very cleverly put into every office a man who would 
ensure smooth sailing and would always yield to the Services.’ 
I was told that when Lord Passfield took charge of his depart¬ 
ment in 1924 he assembled the civilians of his department and 
said, ‘Gentlemen, I know you have been the masters in the past 
and you will continue to be so in the future, so carry on.’ One 
of the guests said it was true, and he added that they could not 
live up to their professions. ‘We passed all sorts of resolutions in 
the last Conference,’ said he, ‘which if put into effect would use 
up all the wealth of the world.’ Major Attlee did not like this. 
He disputed everything that I said. He said, ‘Labour was your 
best friend. Gandhi is contradictory, an astute politician. Con¬ 
gress is full of corruption. None of the big leaders in India want 
adult franchise.’ I said, ‘Major Attlee, evidently you know Gandhi 
better than myself. I came to England to study the English 
people, but evidently you want to teach me something about my 
own country, but I am not desirous to learn this from you.’ Then 
we all cooled down. Attlee and other members said that I should 
see some of the young Tories. All agreed that the atmosphere 
required improving but they were helpless. They had no power 
and no influence and, they might also have added, no intelligence! 
They suffer from an inferiority complex. They would rather 
have Lord Linlithgow as Viceroy than have anyone from their 
own party. They have great awe for Tories and men like Lord 
Derby who is very rich. 

About the Constitution they said, ‘You are talking too much 
about reservation of powers to the Governor-General and you are 
ignoring the fact that every Constitution in the world has got some 
provisions for the final authority, and we too have got that in the 
King * 


185 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

At last we parted as friends. I do not think it was a waste 
of time. 

* * * * 

Of Lord Linlithgow I also attempted a summary:— 

Lord Linlithgow: Tall, well-built, not brilliant but capable 
and sound ; no imagination, matter-of-fact, at the same time 
straightforward, frank and well-intentioned. 

I began my usual argument. There were two distinct atmos¬ 
pheres—one in England representing goodwill and sympathy for 
our future, another in India representing stem and stiff administra¬ 
tion. The people in India read the Bill in the light of the Ad¬ 
ministration there. The natural resuit of such a position would 
be a breakdown of the Constitution and further bitterness. The 
necessity of creating a good beginning to start the new Constitution. 

He listened with great interest and said he agreed entirely, 
but asked if I had any positive suggestion to make. I spoke about 
personal contact and agreement. He agreed about personal con¬ 
tact but was not in favour of any pact; he suggested mutual un¬ 
derstanding. He said that the die-hards here represented the older 
school with Indian experience, but that adjustment, almost a new 
orientation, was taking place in England. New blood, not over 
45, wanted to be liberal. Adjustment must take place in India 
too. It must be realised that there was goodwill and the goal 
could be reached through the Constitution. 

I said it could be, but not without contact. He said that 
Mr. Gandhi will have to make up his mind on one of two issues. 
For the regeneration of the Indian nation, which is the better 
road—a road of personal contact, friendliness and evolution 
through it, or a bolder step of disturbance and disorder spread 
over a number of years which may give liberty and result in a 
setback ? 

I replied that Mr. Gandhi has never believed in bloody re¬ 
volution. I would mind it less, but I knew it would not help us 
and therefore I also desired association and friendliness. Mr. 
Gandhi was quite clear on the point and I produced his letter to 
Agatha Harrison. He read it with interest and said, ‘Yes, it is 
very important. I agree with you but I have no scheme in my 
head; I will think it over. If anything is not possible I will say 
so frankly. Meanwhile, see other people and let me know about 


186 


LONDON CONTACTS 


the 10th, when we will have another talk. But since you have 
expressed your opinion on the method of achieving liberty, allow 
me to express mine. Bloody revolution would be a bold but bad 
step. The world is very small now and with the Government’s 
transport facilities and all that it is not so easy to succeed. On 
the other hand, working the Constitution in a friendly atmosphere 
would lead to certain results.’ 

I said that I agreed with the conclusion but not with the 
argument. Today the Constitution is a body without life. Even 
the most handsome body without life is only fit for cremation. I 
want it to be a body animate with real life. Personal contact and 
mutual understanding alone could infuse such life. 

He again agreed, and deplored the fact that the British ele¬ 
ment in the Civil Service and in trade in India was not representa¬ 
tive of the best of England. 


187 


4 


CHAPTER XVI 

HIGH HOPES IN ENGLAND 

Determined to pull every possible string on Gandhiji’s 
behalf, I sought out every one who might be of assis¬ 
tance — 

Sir Austen Chamberlain, the former Secretary of 
State for India, who had declined the offer of the Vice¬ 
royalty; the Archbishop of Canterbury ; Mr. Baldwin ; 
Geoffrey Dawson, the Editor of The Times; Sir Walter 
Layton; Mr. Kingsley Martin (the New Statesman ); Mr. 
Bone (Manchester Guardian ); and others. The Tories, 
who were then in power, and responsible for the Govern¬ 
ment of India Act , were uniformly friendly, and so were 
the Labour party and the Liberals. 

Baldwin was specially enthusiastic about Lord Hali¬ 
fax, for whom he had a great admiration, and it was 
plain that he regarded my friendship with Lord Halifax 
as my most important recommendation to himself. He 
had a peculiar habit of enjoying a hearty laugh without 
any special reason every two minutes or so, and said 
that after five years’ strenuous work as Prime Minister 
he had got tired, but that with gaps in between it was 
a different thing. 

Here are my notes on a talk with the late Lord 
Salisbury :— 

Old deaf man. Not much grit or wit, but feels his respon¬ 
sibility. Asked me if I was attached to Gandhiji, to which I 
said, ‘Yes’. He replied he had never had the privilege of meet¬ 
ing Mr. Gandhi. I spoke about his (Salisbury’s) opposition to 
the Bill and remarked that I too disliked it but on different grounds. 
It was not a sufficient advance, but I said, ‘Can’t we be friends in 
the working of the Bill in spite of our political difference ?’ He 
asked, ‘Are we not already?’ I said, ‘No. The atmosphere in 
India just now is full of misunderstanding and hostility.’ He re¬ 
plied that he had come in contact with Mr. Gour. ‘Doesn’t he 


188 



HIGH HOPES IN ENGLAND 


represent India ?’ I said, ‘He could not even find a constituency 
to stand for the Assembly.’ He said, ‘Oh yes, I knew that.’ He 
asked me'for a concrete suggestion. I said, ‘Revive the Halifax 
spirit.’ He said he ‘did not agree with Halifax, but what Halifax 
did Halifax alone could do. He is a charming man. Derby is 
another charming man, but we do not agree.’ I replied, ‘And 
yet you are friends.’ He agreed that we could be friends without 
agreeing on political grounds. 

He admired Mr. Gandhi’s saintliness, great character and 
good intentions, but he added, ‘The great mistake that you Indians 
make is that you are confusing these great qualities with experi¬ 
ence. England has got the experience of a thousand years behind 
her. You have none.’ I said, ‘Our background is far more 
ancient and creditable than that of England.’ He said, ‘I do not 
want to minimise ; your civilisation and philosophy and all that is 
far greater than that of any other country, but not in democracy. 
You have yet to learn.’ I said, ‘Did you not make mistakes ?’ 
He said, ‘Yes.’ I added, ‘Because we are lacking in certain things 
we need friendship.’ 

He is a nice man, but I don’t think he could be of 
much use. 

Curiously enough, one of my most pleasant experi¬ 
ences was meeting Mr. Winston Churchill, the strongest 
opponent of the Bill, who had the advantage of deliver¬ 
ing his attacks from the Government side of the House. 
Yet I found him no fire-eater. He asked me to lunch at 
Chartwell, his country home. Here is my report :— 

A most remarkable man. As eloquent in private talk as he 
is in public speech. It is impossible to reproduce the talk in 
writing. I was with him for two hours. 

Mrs. Churchill is also very interesting, but when her husband 
talks she simply listens. She was in India only for six hours last 
year. 

Mr. Churchill was in the garden when I arrived and his wife 
sent for him. He wore a workman’s apron which he did not 
change at lunch, and went out again into the garden wearing a 
huge hat with a big feather in it. After lunch he took me round 
his garden and showed me the buildings that he had built and the 


189 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

bricks that he had laid with his own hands. He also showed me 

the pictures that he had painted. 

The house, its surrounding, its swimming pool, everything 
is most attractive. The water in the swimming pool is kept warm 
by a boiler. A pump draws water out of the pool, warms it, 
filters it and it is then pumped back into the pool. Mr. Churchill 
said that he lived by writing books. I said to myself, ‘The cost 
of this luxury must be enormous,’ but he explained that he spent 
only £3 a Week on it. He did 75 per cent of the talking, the other 
25 per cent was divided between myself and Mrs. Churchill. I 
only occasionally interrupted by correcting him and putting a 
question or two, but I enjoyed the conversation. It was never 
boring. At times he showed great emotion. But he is badly 
informed about India. He has peculiar notions. Villages, ho 
thinks, are entirely cut off in India from towns. I corrected this. 
No townsman is a pure townsman in India; everyone maintains 
touch with the village. 

Twenty-five thousand men that I employ in my mills went 
to their villages more than once a year. Therefore, on the roll 
there were more than 50,000. He thought motor-cars had not 
reached the villages. I corrected him again. An American car 
can function on mud tracks so it could penetrate every nook and 
comer of the country. 

He thought that educated men, graduates and politicians, 
were all in the towns. I again corrected him. In my village, I 
said, I could produce half a dozen graduates, but of course they 
only visit the village and never stay there permanently. 

He took great pride in calling himself a die-hard. ‘A hun¬ 
dred million new souls had come to stay in India during the last 
thirty years,’ he said, ‘their maintenance is a problem. Peace is 
essential for increasing production. So long as we maintained 
law and order it was all right and yet there were communal riots at 
Lahore, Cawnpore, Calcutta. Now these riots would increase and 
thus the masses would suffer.’ I told him that in the Punjab 
there was also a rural party composed of Jats and Mohammedans. 
Under responsible Government parties were likely to be formed 
on economic lines. This may improve the situation. The Com¬ 
munal Award had not helped, but in the absence of an agreement 
amongst us it became inevitable. I did not take such a pessimis¬ 
tic view. He said that he hoped I might prove correct. 


190 


HIGH HOPES IN ENGLAND 


He asked what Mr. Gandhi was doing. I explained. He 
was immensely interested and said, ‘Mr. Gandhi has gone very 
high in my esteem since he stood up for the untouchables.’ He 
wanted to know in detail about the untouchability work. I ex¬ 
plained. He was glad that I was the president of the Anti-Un¬ 
touchability League. Then he asked about Mr. Gandhi’s village 
work. I explained. ‘Why has the Indian agriculturist deteriorat¬ 
ed in his method of cultivation ?’ This, he said, was the opinion 
of Lord Linlithgow. I said, ‘Because he has been neglected all 
along.’ ‘Well, you have the opportunity now. I do not like the 
Bill but it is now on the statute book. I am not going to bother 
any more, but do not give us a chance to say that we anticipated 
a breakdown. The die-hards would be pleased if there was a 
breakdown. You have got immense powers. Theoretically the 
Governors have all the powers, but in practice they have none. 
The King has all the powers in theory but none in practice. So¬ 
cialists here had all the powers when they came into office, but 
they did not do anything radical. The Governors will never use 
the safeguards. So make it a success.’ I said, ‘What is your 
test of success ?’ He said, ‘My test is improvement in the lot of 
the masses, morally as well as materially. I do not care whether 
you are more or less loyal to Great Britain. I do not mind about 
education, but give the masses more butter. I stand for butter. 
As the French King said, “fowl in the pot”. Oh, yes, I am every 
time for butter. Reduce the number of cows but improve their 
breed. Make every tiller of the soil his own landlord. Stop the 
best breed from being slaughtered. Provide a good bull for every 
village. You have a good Viceroy. Tell Mr. Gandhi to use the 
powers that are offered and make the thing a success. I did not 
meet Mr. Gandhi when he was in England. It was then rather 
awkward. My son, though, met him. But I should like to meet 
him now. I would love to go to India before I die. If I went 
there I would stay for six months.’ 

He asked me whether Mr. Gandhi wanted to wreck the con¬ 
stitution. I said, ‘Mr. Gandhi is indifferent. He believes that 
political liberty will come through our own efforts and that our 
political progress will depend entirely upon us. He is therefore 
engaged in uplifting the people. A constitution does not interest 
him much.’ He agreed. He asked if he came to India would 
he be well received. I said, ‘I can assure you on that point.’ He 


191 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

said he did not want to go until Lord Willingdon had left India, 
but he would love to go after that. He said, ‘I am genuinely 
sympathetic towards India. I have got real fears about the future. 
India, I feel, is a burden on us. We have to maintain an army 
and for the sake of India we have to maintain Singapore and Near 
East strength. If India could look after herself we would be 
delighted. After all, the span of life is very small and I would 
not be too selfish. I would be only too delighted if the Reforms 
are a success. I have all along felt that there are fifty Indias. 
But you have got the things now ; make it a success and if you do I 
will advocate your getting much more.’ 

* * * * 

To clarify my own views, I made a summary of 
what I had been saying and sent a copy to Lord Halifax. 
Here it is:—- , 

SOME POINTS ABOUT THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN INDIA 

The Irwin-Gandhi Pact was a great step towards binding 
India and Great Britain together. This created a precedent. It 
struck at the roots of the method of securing political advance by 
means of disorder, and substituted the method of mutual discussion 
and confidence. Its implications, however, were realised by few 
except the two authors. Hardly had the ink dried on the paper 
before both left the country ;* had they remained in India the Pact 
would have lived. Both the rank and file of Congress and Gov¬ 
ernment circles misunderstood this Pact from the beginning. Con¬ 
gressmen knew how to fight, but not how to compromise. Offi¬ 
cial circles never concealed their dislike of the ‘agitator’; discus¬ 
sion with him amounted to lowering of prestige. The pact, there¬ 
fore, created disaffection amongst both on different grounds, and 
was given a burial by both at the first opportunity. 

Then followed the second struggle and Ordinance rule. Con¬ 
gress was suppressed. A reaction against Gandhism followed. 
This, unadulterated, stands for non-violence, truthfulness and 
conversion of the heart of Englishmen brought about by self-suffer¬ 
ing. Hatred is supposed to have no place, though there was in 
fact plenty of it; for Gandhism was never adopted, in its pure 

* Gandhiji went to London to attend the Round Table Conference. 


192 


HIGH HOPES IN ENGLAND 

form, by the civil resisters. The radicals exploited it—but had 
no faith in it. Their object was political freedom ; the means 
were immaterial. ‘Defeat’ of the Congress thus created a new 
force with a different creed. 

After the ‘Fast Unto Death’ and the Untouchability crusade, 
the situation crystallised. The radicals (doubting the efficacy of 
Gandhism) drifted towards the left while another important sec¬ 
tion of opinion began to doubt the wisdom of boycotting the 
Legislatures. At this stage, Gandhiji realised that the ‘Parliamen¬ 
tary mentality had come to stay’; also that violence had crept into 
Congress ranks under the guise of non-violence. He therefore 
withdrew Civil Resistance and set himself to the task of the reform 
of the Congress by concentrating on the eradication of social, 
religious and economic evils in connection with Harijan and Vil¬ 
lage work. Gandhiji has always believed that Swaraj would come 
from within, not from without. Realising that his views could be 
imposed, but might not be assimilated, Gandhiji, rather than 
enforce his views, retired from active membership of the 
Congress. 

The dissolution of the Assembly gave the ‘parliamentary 
mentality’ group a fresh impetus. The radical element disapproved 
of the move, believing that it would divert mass attention from the 
programme. But they could not resist. Elections took place and 
Congressmen were returned in large numbers to the Assembly. 
The spirit and speeches of Mr. Desai (the Congress leader in the 
Assembly) were appreciated by the Home Member—but the 
‘human touch’ never came. The Government lost a good opportu¬ 
nity when it failed to recognise the unconscious attraction towards 
personal contact and mutual understanding. By the end of the ses¬ 
sion the speeches of the opposition became more and more irres¬ 
ponsible. The failure of Congress M.L.A.s to sign the Viceroy’s 
visiting book, caused personal annoyance to Lord Willingdon. 
The gulf widened ; the radical element gathered strength. When 
the Congress Working Committee met at Jubbulpore recently this 
section (the Congress Socialist Party) openly revolted against the 
parliamentarians when the work of the Assembly was under review. 
Many radical resolutions were presented and a nominal victory 
secured; the situation was saved only by the tact and wisdom of 
the right wing—particularly of Mr. Rajagopalachariar. The right- 
wing Congressmen are thus fighting against two forces—the 

193 

13 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

Government and the Socialists. The latter are making a direct 
attack by discrediting the leaders for having ‘achieved nothing’. 
The Government is helping the Socialists indirectly by ignoring 
the right wing; between the two the right wing is being crushed. 
The result may be either the retirement of the right-wingers, 
leaving the field free to the Socialists, or the adoption of some 
extreme programme in respect of reforms in order to carry 
public opinion. This is the effect of the present atmosphere on 
the right wing of the Congress. The effect on the Moslems of 
the present atmosphere is that they are led into a belief that their 
worst actions will be condoned. Recently a resolution was passed 
at a public meeting in Multan that a certain Hindu should die 
because he criticised the Prophet. The police immediately came 
to hear of it, but the Hindu was murdered before he could be 
saved : a dangerous situation likely to have far-reaching results. 
When the Government take drastic action as was taken in 
Karachi, there is serious reaction. 

The Civil Service is also affected by the atmosphere. The 
attitude of mind that regards every popular movement with sus¬ 
picion or opposition may result in grave trouble in the future. 
Constructive work in such an atmosphere becomes impossible ; 
the Government is busy maintaining law and order—the people 
with resisting the Government. 

And finally the recent decision of the Government to dis¬ 
allow trusted Indian leaders to visit Quetta has caused the deepest 
resentment all over India and added a new factor to the already 
tense situation. 

In this atmosphere the new constitution for India will be 
launched—with no personal contact, no mutual trust. 

In England genuine sympathy and goodwill exist towards 
India. It is sincerely believed that the constitution is a real ad¬ 
vance ; that it will give great powers to Indians and ultimately 
lead India towards her goal. This sincerity is realised in England ; 
India is unaware of it. There the proposals are looked upon as 
a retrogade step, for nc Indian believes that any partnership could 
exist unless accompanied by mutual trust, friendliness and per¬ 
sonal contact. Indians reading the Bill and interpreting it liter¬ 
ally, see, for example, the tremendous powers r eserved to the 
Viceroy and Governors. Only in a friendly atmosphere could 


194 


HIGH HOPES IN ENGLAND 


they accept the explanation that every constitution contains some 
provision for a corrective authority. 

If the new constitution is to work successfully to the 
advantage of both countries, it is imperative that something be 
done immediately to change the existing atmosphere. A new 
spirit must be created; the spirit that dominated the Irwin- 
Gandhi Pact must be restored. 

Sensible Indian men and women realise their need of British 
help ; they want British friendship. The question therefore is— 
how to secure this, bearing in mind the Government’s position 
and prestige on the one hand, and the position and the self-respect 
of the Indian people on the other. 

With this in view I venture to make the following sugges¬ 
tions :— 

1. Establishment of personal contact should be the first 

step with a view to developing it and getting some 
mutual understanding. To avoid embarrassment and 
unnecessary speculation the meeting should take 
place informally and on a non-political issue. 

2. This contact should be developed. An effort should 

be made to get mutual understanding. If it is thought 
that success may not be achieved at Delhi, then a 
man like Sir John Anderson should tackle the 
questions. 

3. If the finishing touch is to be given by the next 

Viceroy then the ground should be prepared in the 
time in between so that the gulf may not widen 
meanwhile. 

4. As the best atmosphere is to be found in England, is 

it possible to get Mr. Gandhi on some other mission 
to England? He was invited in 1929, I think, either 
by some Church people or by some University. 

5. Is it possible for the Secretary of State or the next 

Viceroy to go to India next cold weather as the 
head of some of the Commissions likely to go there? 

6. Over and above that, is it possible to exchange views 

through a third person with a view to making suit¬ 
able declarations from both sides? In that case, 
personal contact would follow after the declarations 
are made. 


195 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

In his reply Lord Halifax said that he was sending 
a copy of this to the future Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow. 

Lord Linlithgow I met several times again, and before 
leaving I sent him a note, in which I said:— 

There are one or two more points which I wish to submit 
to you. The new Viceroy will have to work hard to create an 
atmosphere and he may require someone to help him who could 
take an unprejudiced view. I wonder whether the new Viceroy 
should not take with him his own private secretary, as Lord 
Willingdon did. 

After the new Viceroy has established personal contact some 
points are bound to crop up for consideration, and I am putting 
them forward so that your mind may seek the solution. 

(1) Release of non-violent political prisoners. (There are 
not many but there are some, like Abdul Ghaffar Khan and 
Pandit Nehru. The latter probably will be released very soon). 

(2) Return of the confiscated land. This point was con¬ 
ceded in the Irwin-Gandhi Pact, but with the breakdown of the 
pact everything receded into the background. Congressmen would 
find it difficult to enjoy office while leaving their co-workers in 
the lurch. 

(3) The question of terrorists will have to be solved. Some 
scheme will have to be found to get rid of terrorism effectively. 
On this point the Congress and Government are on common 
ground, but their methods are not common. The Congress want 
to kill terrorism more by conciliation than by punishment. While 
the Congress should not exclude punishment from their modus 
operandi, the Government, in my opinion, should not exclude 
the method of reconciliation. I visualise the creation of common 
ground for the Government and the Opposition and thereby a 
way to meet terrorism effectively. The release of Mr. S. C. Bose 
is a step in the right direction, and I think his brother 
Mr. Subhas Bose, too, could be handled properly. It would not 
be beyond the ingenuity of Sir John Anderson to find a formula. 

I am writing all these things for your consideration, because 
some day you will have to give serious attention to these matters 
and you may like to think ahead. 

Thanking you for your courtesy and good wishes, 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 


196 


HIGH HOPES IN ENGLAND 


On the whole I left England with high hopes, much 
cheered by a note from Lord Lothian, in which he assur¬ 
ed me that the new Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, would 
arrive in India with a definite mission to establish perso¬ 
nal contacts with our national leaders. 


197 


CHAPTER XVII 

RETURN TO INDIA 

In September 1935 I returned to India and immediately 
went to Wardha to stay with Gandhiji and give him a 
first-hand report of my impressions. Naturally he felt 
that the friendliness I had experienced in England did 
not yet prevail in Government circles in India, but all 
the same he asked me to write to Lord Linlithgow and 
others that he would advise the Congress to make no 
new commitments about the Reforms before the latter’s 
arrival in India, and he promised to use his influence to 
that end. This was good news indeed. Expressing his 
delight, Lord Lothian made some comments which are 
worth recording :— 

Government is a very difficult business. Aristotle and the 
Greeks regarded it as the greatest of the arts. People can only 
learn how to govern by assuming responsibility and testing their 
ideas by practice. I believe the whole future of India now turns 
upon whether or not her young men and women throw themselves 
into the elections in order that they may assume responsibility 
for government, first in the Provinces and then at the Centre. 
It is only in this practical work that they will develop their poli¬ 
tical muscles and the kind of character and ability that will 
enable them to deal with the fundamental problems which con¬ 
front India, whatever constitution she has—communalism, 
poverty, minorities, the princes, the power of property and so 
on. I venture to send you a copy of The Twentieth Century in 
which I give my reasons for thinking that the fundamental change 
of heart, on which the Mahatma has always insisted, has taken 
place here and that real responsibility for Indian Government 
will rest on Indian shoulders. I wonder if you would send it on 
to him, after you have read it, if you think he has not seen it. 

If after having trained their muscles in the constitution 
Young India finds that the constitution itself prevents them from 
achieving the reforms which matter, they will have both a case 
for demanding revision, or if it is denied, for taking more direct 


198 




RETURN TO INDIA 


action, and the experience and training in practical government 
they have so gained may enable them to achieve success and 
good government for India as the outcome. But if they now 
go in either for civil disobedience and non-co-operation or for 
violent revolutionary methods, they will fail to learn how to 
govern in a liberal and constitutional way and get confirmed in 
those rigid and dictatorial methods which are wrecking Europe 
by destroying individual liberty, replacing individual thinking by 
mass organisation, and leading the world back to war, and 
which will certainly divide and lay India in ruins. I am certain 
that if the new India shows practical capacity to give India good 
government, as the young Dominions did, full power will pass 
into its hands, as easily and inevitably as elsewhere. The main 
thought in Britain today is not to retain control over India, 
though it wants to trade with it, but whether India can become 
self-governing without plunging into catastrophe. Directly British 
public opinion feels that the political leaders of India are getting 
a grip on their problems of Indian government and reform in a 
practical and sagacious way the safeguards will disappear, as 
they have in Canada and Australia. From every point of view, 
therefore, the immediate necessity is for Congress and its rivals 
to take hold of provincial government and make a success of it 
and from there go on to do the same by the Centre. 

Linlithgow himself wrote :— 

My own strong impression is that opinion here has moved 
a long way in the past ten years in the direction of sympathy 
with Indian aspirations. I am sure that it is very necessary to 
make full allowance for the fact that the mass of opinion can 
only move at a certain speed. The older generation, which is 
commonly the generation in charge of affairs, and which leads 
public opinion, cannot be expected to accommodate itself to 
new circumstances and points of view as easily as those who are 
younger. Indeed, the average man does not easily adapt himself 
to new circumstances after the age of 45. These considerations 
apply, of course, with equal force to those in both countries and 
to men of every race. Great patience will be required and the 
courage to stand undismayed against disappointment if, in the 
earlier stages of any endeavour, good results do not immediately 
emerge. 


199 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

I must needs make the best I can of the new constitution ; 
and so far as I am able, My anxious concern must be to make 
it possible for men and women of all shades of political opinion 
to work within its bounds. Probably you would agree that the 
wisest cannot hope at this time to gauge with exactitude the 
manner in which in all its bearings, the Constitution will affect 
the political situation in India. My own feeling therefore is that 
whatever may be our present opinions, we shall all of us do well 
to suspend final judgment until in the event the picture clears a 
little. 

Meantime, as you, I think, already know, I shall be found 
most willing to play my part in endeavouring to fortify and ex¬ 
tend that spirit of mutual respect and mutual confidence without 
which no happy outcome can be expected, and to make and 
maintain those relations of personal friendship which so often 
serve to ease the burden and to lessen the difficulties of public 
life, and which are therefore of the utmost value and importance. 

But alas! all these fair hopes were soon to be cloud¬ 
ed over. Lord Linlithgow had not reckoned with 
the tremendous opposition he would have to face from 
the vested interests of die-hard British businessmen in 
Calcutta and also in Bombay, though there to ,a lesser 
extent. When he paid his first visit to Calcutta all the 
Europeans were immediately up in arms against him 
because he refused an invitation to dine with the purely 
European Bengal Club and accepted one from the 
Calcutta Club, which had a mixed membership. Nor 
had he reckoned on the unhelpful attitude of some of the 
high officials on whose advice and co-operation he was 
inevitably largely dependent. These men, though, true 
to their service tradition, meant to carry out loyally the 
intentions of the British Government and Parliament and 
the spirit of the Act, were influenced in a contrary direc¬ 
tion by a number of factors. First there were, the die¬ 
hard views freely expressed amongst the businessmen, 
with whom they cjosely associated socially. Indeed it 
could be remarked that, whereas some of the business¬ 
men of fairly humble origin were anxious that their sons 


200 


RETURN TO INDIA 


should enter the I.C.S. or the Indian Army because they 
regarded this as a rise in the social ladder they wished 
to climb, officials, on the contrary, besought their 
business friends to take their sons into firms in order 
that they should have more prosperous financial careers 
than fell to the average official. The raging Terrorist cam¬ 
paign which had marked the summer of 1935 and had 
been launched in violation of the Xrwin-Gandhi Pact 
had also inevitably stiffened the backs of both the 
officials and the businessmen. This campaign had been 
conducted during Gandhiji’s absence from India, though 
such Bengal Congress stalwarts as Dr. B. C. Roy and 
Mr. Nalini Sarkar publicly disassociated themselves from 
it. Yet another main influence was the former Viceroy’s 
openly expressed distrust of Gandhiji. The rumour ran 
that he had characterised Bapu as a ‘humbug’. This view 
permeated both official and business circles, for they argu¬ 
ed that, whereas most of them had never met Bapu, Lord 
Willingdon had and must know what he was talking 
about. A notable exception was Sir Herbert Emerson. 
It had fallen to him to attempt to carry out the Govern¬ 
ment side of the Pact. This necessarily involved meet¬ 
ings with Bapu, with the result that both men liked each 
other very much and confidence grew between them. But 
the officials as a whole did not believe in Gandhiji’s 
sincerity, were privately highly critical of the new Vice¬ 
roy, and were particularly incensed because he brought 
out with him his own Private Secretary, an official from 
the India Office. The post of Private Secretary they 
jealously regarded as a perquisite of the I.C.S. and a 
natural stepping-stone to a governorship. 

One more unfortunate fact must be mentioned, and 
that is the cumulative effect of all these influences upon 
Lord Linlithgow himself. They gradually so affected 
him that, although he clung to his original attitude suffi¬ 
ciently long to succeed in persuading the Congress to 
work the Act, accept office and form Governments under 


201 


* 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

the provincial autonomy scheme while he himself entered 
into friendly relationship with Gandhiji, nevertheless, 
when war broke out with Germany in 1939, he had be¬ 
come so distrustful about Indians in general and the 
Congress in particular, that from the outset he resolutely 
rejected all suggestions for the formation of a National 
Government and a common war effort. This seemed all 
the more contradictory and absurd because he himself 
and the British Government whom he represented, had 
been pursuing a policy of appeasement in fawning upon 
Hitler, whereas Indian public opinion had throughout 
been anti-Nazi though not anti-German. Moreover, 
Indian opinion had manifested itself as strongly pro- 
Chinese and had condemned all Japan’s aggressive 
actions in Manchuria. At Mr. Nehru’s instigation the 
Congress had organised an ambulance unit and sent it 
to assist the Chinese. The British in India, on the con¬ 
trary, seemed intent only on their trade interest, shut 
their eyes to all possibility of a Hitler-Japanese combi¬ 
nation to invade India, and busied themselves with ship¬ 
ping from Calcutta to Japanese ports cargoes of pig-iron 
which later came back in the form of bullets in the 
breasts of Indian and British soldiers. 

* * * * 

Here is a letter which shows Bapu’s clear and simple 
method of dealing with financial problems :— 

Segaon, Wardha, 
4 - 7 - 36 . 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

I did not ask Mahadev to write about the museum. In fact 
I had asked him to write about the other buildings. You might 
recall that while enumerating my needs I had said that 
Rs. 1,00,000 would be needed for the other buildings. Subse¬ 
quently, the Vidyalaya was included among the buildings, though 
at the time when the figure of Rs. 1,00,000 was mentioned I 
had kept the matter of the Vidyalaya separate because I was 
thinking of erecting buildings at a cost of ~Rs. 1,00,000 in addi- 


202 


RETURN TO INDIA 


tion to the Vidyalaya building. But there is not enough money 
in the funds or in the reserve to defray the expenses incurred 
on account" of the Vidyalaya. I was under the impression that 
you have sent a certain portion of the amount of Rs. 1,00,000 to 
Bachchraj & Co. Now I learn that nothing has been credited 
under this head. That is why I wrote a letter to you at Trivan¬ 
drum. Presumably you did not get that letter. If it is possible 
to take out any amount from that Rs. 1,00,000, this may be done. 

I have written a letter to Dr. Moonje. You might have 
received a copy. 

What arrangements have been made with Pamerkar? 

With Bapu’s blessings. 

* * * # 

The next letter, from Mahadev, throws some interesting 
light on Bapu’s mode of life at this time. 

Maganwadi, Wardha, 

20th Aug., 1936. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

I am sending you under separate post a copy of the pro¬ 
ceedings of the Vishva-Bharati Samsad. You will be glad to hear 
that the ‘anonymous’* donation of Rs. 60,000 has helped them 
to pay off the old debts and for once their budget seems to be 
balanced. How long it will continue to be so, we do not know! 
Did you have a nice time in Kashmir? 

I deliberately refrained from writing to you on the subject 
of that historic interview. These things do not bear discussion 
through correspondence. 

I am looking forward to your arrival here some time next 
month. Perhaps the weather will be more propitious to you than 
it was to Pandit Jawaharlal who was here last week. He had to 
walk part of the way in rain and mud. Bapu is getting more and 
more absorbed in his village work and feels no inclination to 
give any time to correspondence or to writing. Three or four 
weeks ago he finished writing his statement on socialism, but he 
has not yet found a moment to revise it. Of course, he had col¬ 
lected a number of friends in that little one-room tenement of 
his, and problems arising out of their illness naturally occupied 

* I was the anonymous donor to the poet. This donation that I gave 
to the poet has a touching history behind it which need not be repeated here. 


203 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


the bulk of his time. That, however, is not the whole fact of the 
situation. The fact is that he is turning his mind off from the 
Congress and all other outside activities and reverting it entirely 
on the village and its problems. That, he says is his sadhana, and 
he is loath to having it interrupted by any other programme. He 
received pressing letters from Sir P. T. asking him to go to 
Bombay to receive the South African deputation, but he re¬ 
solutely said, ‘No’. He is booked to preside over the Gujrat Lite¬ 
rary Conference in early November in accordance with a promise 
he gave about a year ago, but he is thoroughly disinclined even 
to keep that promise and wishes that something or other may turn 
up to prevent him from going! Perhaps when you are here, you 
will be able to have a correct insight into his present mood. 

I hope you are well 

Yours sincerely, 
Mahadev 


204 


CHAPTER XVIII 


THE LINLITHGOW REGIME 

A 

Linlithgow was no stranger to India, as he had been 
Chairman in previous years of the Royal Commission on 
Agriculture, and in this capacity had visited every part 
of the country from Kashmir and Peshawar to Cape 
Comorin. He had a reputation as a farming expert and 
my first contacts with him when he came to India as 
Viceroy were chiefly in regard to bulls and cows. One 
of my problems was to get a good breed of cattle in order 
to provide milk for the children at my big educational 
experiment at Pilani in Jaipur. During my stay in 
England I bought a Holstein bull but the results were not 
satisfactory. One of my ideas was that the return fare 
for milch cows sent to the large towns should be regulated 
so as to make it more attractive to send a good breed 
back to their original homes rather than allow them to 
go to the slaughter-house when they went dry. At my 
instigation the Viceroy inquired closely into the matter 
but officialdom was too much for him at this, the outset 
of his new career, and the Railway Board turned down 
the idea. The Viceroy, however, was not completely 
defeated as the Railway Board agreed to introduce a 
special return rate of 6 as. a mile per four-wheeled vehicle 
for cattle freight from any north-western station to 
Howrah, provided the return was completed within a 
period of nine months. But as I had pointed out in the 
letter to the Viceroy, most of the cattlemen were illiterate 
and would not purchase return tickets, so that it would 
have been better to have a uniform charge for sending 
cows to Calcutta, with a free ticket for return in nine 
months. This would leave no option to the sender who 
would have to purchase a return ticket, which could be 
sold along with the cow to anyone interested in bringing 
it back. 


205 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

On the 5th of August, 1936, for the first time after 
our meetings in London, I met the new Viceroy and had 
an interview for almost an hour. My notes on this oc¬ 
casion reveal a picture of a well-intentioned, honest man, 
struggling with his environment, like a swimmer trying 
to swim upstream against a powerful current, the strength 
of which he had never previously gauged and which was 
bound eventually to carry him away. 

I admit that I did most of the talking. I reminded 
him that I was told by Zetland, Halifax, Lothian and 
Hoare that Gandhiji should make no new commitments 
until he met the new Viceroy. I had given their perso¬ 
nal messages and my own impression to Gandhiji. He 
found it difficult to accept the cheerful view that I took, 
and yet he promised to see that at the Lucknow Con¬ 
gress no new commitments were made. I said that 
Lord Willingdon had taken an active part in spreading 
a scare about his successor seeing Gandhiji. Linlithgow 
was evidently only too well aware of this and agreed. 
Clearly he already sensed hostility in the atmosphere 
surrounding him. 

‘Gandhiji has kept his promise,’ said I. ‘I do not know 
whether you still have the desire to break the ice and establish 
the personal touch or whether you have changed your views. I 
pressed my point strongly in London but I shall not do so any 
more now. After all, when we met in London you had no first¬ 
hand information whereas I had. Now you have the same ad¬ 
vantage as I have. You know my views and I hold them as 
strongly as ever. If you think that you should break the ice and 
take some step, then please advise me as to how I can help. On 
the other hand, if you have changed your views and decided to 
continue the same old policy, I think it will be a great mistake, 
and I have no more to say.’ 

He thought over this for a moment and then asked : ‘What 
is the relation between Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Nehru ?’ To this I 
replied, ‘One needs to understand the temperaments of the two 
men. There is a tremendous difference between their outlooks 
and ideas. But this does not prevent their mutual attachment 


206 


THE LINLITHGOW REGIME 


which is as strong as ever. So long as Mr. Gandhi lives, there 
is no danger—so far as I can see—of any split in the Congress.’ 
He replied./I agree’, and asked, ‘Is Mr. Gandhi going to finance 
the elections ?’ I replied, ‘I don’t think so. It will all be done 
by the Congress, and so far as I can see they will be returned in 
a majority in five provinces.’ 

Then he said, ‘I must tell you very frankly that when I arriv¬ 
ed here there was a great panic in official circles. I had a full 
talk with Sir Henry Craik. I fear it is not possible for me to 
take any step just now. I recognise the Congress is a very strong 
party and it may be returned in a majority in many provinces. I 
admit that the Congress has created a spirit of self-respect and 
nationalism among people and is largely responsible for bringing 
about a constitutional change in India. But there are other im¬ 
portant parties too. And if I try to be overfriendly with the Con¬ 
gress, then I would be putting the other parties at a great dis¬ 
advantage. And this might give undue weight to the Congress 
election. I may be charged with partiality. As representative 
of the Crown therefore it would not be fair for me to do anything 
that might savour of partiality. There is, besides, another point. 
What can I say to Mr. Gandhi today? I do not wish to play 
with him. I cannot change a comma in the Government of 
India Act. I cannot release the prisoners in Bengal. Then what 
am I to talk about? Of course, if any distinguished person wants 
to see me, I am always ready to see him ; Pandit Malaviya saw 
me, you have seen me. But if I specially invite Mr. Gandhi I 
fear there will be no justification in doing so.’ I said, ‘I quite 
appreciate your point. Gandhiji would not ask for an interview 
at present. Not that he stands on any ceremony. If you express 
a desire to meet him, he will at once write for an interview. But 
left to himself he has nothing to say. I am not a Congressman, 
and so when I have to explain your position to Congress and the 
Congress position to you, I feel myself at a disadvantage. I 
wonder why you do not seek the opportunity yourself of seeing a 
Congressman like Gandhiji to discuss Congress politics. Then 
you can get first-hand information about their attitude and vice 
versa. Of course, I never suggested that it was possible to change 
the Government of India Act at this stage, but there are a lot 
of other things that could be done and should be done. Cannot 
a common formula be found on terrorism? There are so many 


207 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

other things which can be done. I don’t think the Government 
today is impartial. Immediately Khan Sahib is released, he is 
banned from entering the Frontier and the Punjab. Assume 
that Khan Sahib is going to be one of the ministers.. You 
are simply depriving him from carrying on his electioneer¬ 
ing campaign. It is not fair. This is neither fairness nor 
impartiality. By removing all these unfairnesses the atmos¬ 
phere could be improved but as I have already said I have pressed 
my point enough. Now you will decide for yourself.’ But I 
asked, ‘Do you think the position will be different from what it is 
today after the election is over ? Pie said, ‘Oh yes, tremen¬ 
dously. After the election it will be a different picture altogether. 

I hope to make a substantial contribution after the election is over 
but I do not make any promises. We do not know what the 
position will be after the election and what step we might have 
to take.’ Then he said his information was that Congressmen 
were trying to avoid office because if they did some constructive 
work and had to tax people for education and other things, they 
might become unpopular. I said, ‘Your information is absolutely 
wrong. I have not the slightest doubt that if there was a proper 
understanding and a good atmosphere, and if the Congress accepted 
office, they would not hesitate for a moment to impose new taxa¬ 
tion on those who are capable of paying for education, sanitation 
and all that. In fact, it would only increase the popularity of 
the Congress.’ He accepted my point of view but said that he 
was told this by a Congressman. But then he said, ‘If I met 
Mr. Gandhi and said, I can do this and I can do that and I would 
put a most liberal interpretation on the Act and even take risks. 
Would you accept office? I have not the slightest doubt that 
he would say, No.’ I said, ‘Your Excellency, you are assuming 
too much.’ He said, ‘Do you think he will agree to acceptance 
of office ?’ I said, ‘Yes, provided he is convinced that there is 
an atmosphere for doing constructive work for the good of the 
masses. Gandhiji has been a constructive worker throughout his 
life and therefore acceptance of office by Congressmen would not 
frighten him in the least. Of course, there has to be the right 
atmosphere.’ Then I again said, ‘I know your views now and 
I will forward them to Gandhiji. I am so glad that you have put 
things so clearly and so frankly and I shall no longer pester you 
any more on this point. If at any time you want my help I am 


208 


THE LINLITHGOW REGIME 

at your disposal, but as you now have the advantage of studying 
things for yourself, I shall say nothing. Of course, I do not 
agree with your conclusion but that does not matter.’ 

Then we talked a little about cattle breeding. He said, ‘It 
would satisfy my conscience if I could put something in the 
pocket of the cultivator. I do not care what people think of me 
if I succeed in doing this.’ He again said, ‘Tell Mr. Gandhi that 
nationalism is not a crime in my opinion and I am capable of 
taking honest views.’ Then he added, ‘You don’t know how 
much panic there was in official circles when I reached India.’ 
I told him that I knew all about it and had even warned him in 
my letter to him. He said, ‘I did not think it was as bad as that.’ 

I need not add that there was a thorough cordiality throughout 
the conversation and I still stick to my views that he is a good, 
honest man. He has been entirely forced to abandon his ideas 
and although he still aspires to take some step after the election 
he will not make any promise. When I said I hoped to see him 
again he said, ‘Do not come very often to me or else it might 
be construed that you were trying to influence me too much. But 
write whenever you wish, even though I may disagree with you.’ 

On top of this interview a letter came in from Lord 
Lothian. In my reply I wrote :— 

It was refreshing to hear from you that your impression is 
that ‘the Viceroy is determined to break through formality and 
apply the personal touch.’ As yet, I have seen no signs of it. I 
met the Viceroy the day before yesterday and found there was 
nothing doing. 

When I returned to India I found Lord Wiflingdon had 
already set the ball of scare rolling about what the new Viceroy 
was going to do. ‘The new Viceroy is going to see Gandhi and 
will change the old policy.’ As if in case Gandhi walked to the 
Viceroy’s House, the heavens would fall! An inspired telegram 
appeared in the Morning Post and on the heels of it Sir Tej 
Bahadur Sapru showed your letter to friends and pressmen in 
which it appears you said something about my having got a pro¬ 
mise from Mr. Gandhi not to make any new commitment until 
he saw the new Viceroy. All this was fully utilised by those 
against the personal touch. Even the Hindustan Times through 

209 


14 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

its Bombay correspondent was duped into printing a silly story 
about Lord Halifax corresponding with Gandhiji. 

The Services who, I always feared, were strongly opposed 
to any move towards the personal touch between the head of 
the administration and the opposition, nursed the scare with its 
absurd implications and, when Lord Linlithgow arrived, he 
found the atmosphere full of panic and alarm. I do not know 
what he did and how he thought, but the fact is that he has 
abandoned the idea of a personal touch for the time being. My 
own feeling is that his hands are forced. 

Probably he has been advised that if he did anything before 
the elections are over, he might thereby help the Congress. I 
fear he has been grossly ill-advised. The personal touch is only 
a means. The whole question is, ‘Should we make a serious 
effort to direct the energies of India once for all towards consti¬ 
tutional channels?’ This can only be possible by ending the 
‘Police State’ as you call it and by creating an atmosphere of 
mutual understanding which will for a long time to come exclude 
the idea of any direct action. 

It is necessary for the leaders in personal talk to know how 
far the best of Britain is ready to help India in her onward march; 
and that the reforms will be worked with the most liberal inter¬ 
pretation, even to the extent of taking risks. All this has to be 
talked over personally now and not after the elections. The best 
time for such a move was a year back. The Bihar earthquake 
gave a good opportunity for joint work and a mutual touch. 
Now it is slightly worse but after the elections when the Congress 
comes in with a majority in many provinces, as I think it will, 
the time will be much worse. If, when the Congress triumphs, 
the Government tries to show friendliness it will make little 
impression. On the other hand, I fear that during the elections 
there may be a clash which will ruin the whole atmosphere. Not 
all the provincial Governments are taking an impartial attitude 
towards the elections. 

There is another point. Lord Linlithgow has created a very 
good atmosphere for himself. The scare about his seeing Gandhiji 
made him rather popular and he has further created a very good 
impression by his interest in rural matters. The charm may break 
when the elections are over. 


210 


THE LINLITHGOW REGIME 


Things are happening for which he is bound to be blamed. 
Take the case of the Frontier. Abdul Ghaffar Khan has been 
forbidden to enter the Frontier and the Punjab and yet, if anybody 
has a claim to control the new Government under the new re¬ 
forms in the Frontier on account of his popularity, it is Abdul 
Ghaffar Khan. Virtually he is deprived of his right to conduct 
his electioneering campaign. Why should we not assume that 
he is going to be the Chief Minister in the Frontier under the 
new reforms and that the present Government, by banning his 
entry, is showing partiality in favour of the present ministers 
who are fighting against him? So far not a word has been said 
against the Viceroy. The Congress Press is either maintaining 
silence or is saying something good. But I fear that this may 
not continue. I pray it may, but once the atmosphere gets 
poisonous both sides will find it difficult to become friendly. The 
situation therefore, in my opinion, warrants no delay. 

It was a great disappointment to me that after having gone 
to England and brought back such a good impression and per¬ 
sonal messages for Gandhiji from you and other friends, and 
after having got Gandhiji to respond, I should have failed in 
such a manner. But it appears that God’s will was otherwise. 
I am not writing to Lord Halifax as you may like to show this 
letter to him. I still pray that the Viceroy will realise the neces¬ 
sity of creating a good atmosphere without delay. To some extent 
probably he is helpless, but whenever he decides to take a bold 
action he will have to face opposition from his men. I dare say 
Lord Halifax had the same experience when he invited Gandhiji 
to talk. 

This is the tale of our woes. 

* * * * 

However, the following March when the elections were 
over, I had a somewhat more hopeful talk with the 
Viceroy. He said :— 

T am glad that the Congress has come in with a majority. I 
am not at all surprised. I knew it. But my men did not know 
it. I had English experience. I knew that there was no other 
party in the field. Congress was well organised and could appeal 
to the public and so they deserved the victory. I am only sur¬ 
prised that in Bombay they are not in a majority. I wish they 


211 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

could have got ten more seats.’ I told him that that was due 
to Maharashtra where the Congress was not in full touch with 
the rural population. He agreed. 

Then I said, ‘What next ? You may have heard how the 
Congress mind is moving. I have come from Wardha and there¬ 
fore I know Gandhiji’s mind. His position is something like 
this. You people have all along in your public speeches been 
telling us that we are going to have genuine power. You have 
put in the safeguards no doubt but you have always said that they 
are to be treated only as insurance against risk. Now Gandhiji 
wants to take you at your word and he says unless we try to 
wreck the Constitution or do something directly against your very 
existence, don’t use the safeguards. Allow us to work.’ He 
said, ‘I quite realise the position. In fact, in substance there is 
no difference between Gandhiji’s position and my own. English¬ 
men are sensible men and after having given this Constitution, if 
they don’t allow the Congress to have full freedom to work the 
Constitution, where is it going to lead to? If we poke our nose 
in and create a deadlock, you will go back to the voters and then 
come back again in a majority. So we don’t want to use the safe¬ 
guards merely for the sake of fun. But if you take office and 
say, “We are going to wreck the Constitution”, then of course the 
safeguards must be used. I can therefore make any public de¬ 
claration that you want, assuring my sympathy and goodwill, 
and you would be astonished to hear what I have told 
my own Governors about this, but if anybody wants me to say 
that the safeguards are to be suspended, it is impossible. I 
cannot do it because I have no power to change the Constitution, 
and I fear we would be misunderstood, for if anybody says, 
“Suspend the safeguards,” and I say, “We can’t,” then the whole 
Indian Press will say that the safeguards are to rule, which is not 
the fact. So I am anxious about the position.’ I pointed out 
that so far as I understood, Gandhiji did not want the Constitu¬ 
tion to be changed, but he wanted a gentlemen’s agreement. I 
said, ‘I visualise the provincial Congress leaders being sent for 
by the Governors, but the former would put forward only the 
set formula of the Congress to the Governors and the latter would 
simply say, “No.” The provincial leaders are second-rank men 
except in Madras where we have got Rajagopalachariar.’ He 
interrupted and said, ‘I knew you would make this exception.’ 


212 


THE LINLITHGOW REGIME 


I proceeded and said, ‘Is it not therefore possible to shift the 
venue from the provinces to Delhi because then there could be a 
more intelligent discussion? It would not then be difficult to find 
a solution.’ I further told him that if he met Gandhiji, the latter 
would put his case in much stronger language than I did, but at 
the same time, he would be able to find a formula; but I did not 
know how that position could be brought about. He said, ‘It is 
rather a difficult task. If Gandhi were to come to me today, he 
could talk only on this particular thing. Six months back he 
could have come on some different mission, but my men did 
not advise me to establish personal contact then. If he comes 
after a week even, the position may be different. But at present 
what could I tell him except what I have told you.’ I said that 
he was misinformed. Mr. Gandhi was not coming to him, but 
because Jawaharlal wanted him in Delhi; but I pointed out to 
him the implications of all that was likely to happen. He him¬ 
self had to exercise his brain and find out a solution. He said, 
‘I realise that Mr. Gandhi could not come to see me today, nor 
can I see how I could invite him. And yet I feel that the differ¬ 
ence between us does not exist. I hope he knows this pretty 
well and that there is no personal misunderstanding between us.’ 
I assured him on that point. 

The talk was rather inconclusive because while he was very 
cordial and in a way radical in his views, which could not have 
been better expressed, he could not see what he could do. When 
I attacked the Services and pointed out how in the U.P. and the 
Frontier Province they actually took sides against the Congress, 
he did not defend them. He again and again pointed out his 
satisfaction at the Congress victory. He assured me that he was 
not going to allow any Governor to use his power ; but except 
for this assurance of sympathy and goodwill which he said he 
could give even publicly, he did not see how the safeguards could 
actually be suspended. And at the same time he saw that 
Gandhiji did not want their constitutional suspension. 

About Jawaharlal he said, ‘Am I correct in assuming that 
there is a strong personal affection between Gandhi and Jawahar¬ 
lal ?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said he thought that Jawaharlal too 
had an assured position in the country and asked, ‘Would 
Gandhiji rise against Jawaharlal if the latter disagreed with him 


213 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

on any compromise ?’ I replied, ‘Jawaharlal would simply follow 
him.’ He accepted this view. 

Then he talked about the Birla College. 

Three days later Mr. Laithwaite, his private secre¬ 
tary, said he would like to come to tea for a chat, and on 
the 17th March I sent my next letter for the Viceroy 
to him:— 

Dear Mr. Laithwaite, 

As you have seen, Gandhiji’s formula has been finally 
accepted by the Working Committee and I have no doubt that it 
will be accepted also by the the A.I.C.C. The onus to state pub¬ 
licly that the Governor will not use his special powers of inter¬ 
ference or set aside the advice of ministers rests now on the Chief 
Minister after he has satisfied himself on this point and therefore 
this makes the matter much easier for the Governor. It also 
does not preclude discussion between the Governor and any other 
important leader whom the Chief Minister may like to accompany 
him ; which will enable intelligent discussion. 

‘Within the constitution’ is a very important phrase which 
gives, in my opinion, a counter-guarantee on the part of the 
Congress that there is no desire to create deadlocks for the sake 
of deadlocks. If the Governors will be sympathetic, then I hope 
there should be no difficulty in arriving at a proper understanding. 
I think this a great triumph for the right wing of the Congress 
and a counter-response would very much strengthen their hands. 
I hope His Excellency appreciates the position. 

With kind regards, 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 

* * * * 

Bapu’s personal concern for the welfare of his 
‘white social workers’ is shown in a letter to Rameshwar- 
das, written at a time when there was much of great 
import to occupy Bapu’s mind:— 

Segaon. Wardha. 

25-6-1937. 

My dear Rameshwardas, 

Your letter duly reached me. As regards the money, I got 


214 


THE LINLITHGOW REGIME 


the information from Messrs. Bachchraj & Co. Nearly 
Rs. 1,00,000 will go to the Village Industries Association. What 
you are giving for personal expenses is, of course, separate. 

I had secured passages by cargo boat to England for several 
white social workers through Brijmohan. He is not there now. 
Whom should I write to in Calcutta ? Or will you write and 
ask if it is possible to send a certain English sister by cargo boat ? 

With Bapu’s blessings. 




215 


CHAPTER XIX 

CONGRESS TAKES OFFICE 

The following summer I again went to London to nego¬ 
tiate the Indo-British trade pact. I utilised this opportunity 
also to renew my efforts to dissipate mutual suspicions and 
arrive at an understanding which would enable the Con¬ 
gress to accept office in the provinces and start the snow¬ 
ball of self-government rolling under the rather uninspi¬ 
ring name of provincial autonomy then bestowed on it. 
Distrust was doing its disastrous work on both sides. 
Though the Viceroy had come to India intending to 
meet Gandhiji, he had never yet done so; and on our 
side I am sorry to say that soon after I reached London 
I received a letter from Mahadev Desai, Bapu’s trusted 
private secretary, in which he went so wide of the mark 
as to suggest that Lord Halifax was double-crossing us 
and was no friend of India. He wrote, ‘Are you sure 
that they are as anxious to help as they profess to be in 
their letters to you? My information is that it is Halifax 
who has set his face against any compromise. Once 
bitten, twice shy, and he seems to be advising the Secre¬ 
tary of State and others that in no case should a pact 
with Gandhi be repeated.’ I replied as follows:— 

London, 16th June, 1937. 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

I have been talking to friends here and during the conver¬ 
sations have found only distrust at work. There seems to be 
no fundamental difference in the position. It struck me during 
the course of my conversations that it should be possible to para¬ 
phrase the ideas of both sides in a way which may be acceptable 
to both, and so I drafted out something. Here it is :— 

Tn case of a serious disagreement between the Governor 
and his Minister, even though the dispute pertained to the field 
of the special responsibilities of the Governor, the Minister and 
the Governor will first through discussion try their best to come 


216 


CONGRESS TAKES OFFICE 


to an agreement, but if they ultimately fail to do so and it be¬ 
comes necessary for the Governor to discard the advice of his 
Minister, he will intimate to the latter in writing that he cannot 
accept his advice in this particular matter even though the 
Minister has to resign over it. The Minister in such circumstances 
will treat the Governor’s intimation as tantamount to asking for 
his resignation.’ 

It is my intention to put forward this suggestion to the 
Secretary of State. Of course, I will make it clear that I have 
no authority to put this forward on behalf of Bapu or anyone 
else. But all the same I should like to know whether it meets 
Bapu’s point. I thought it did, and so I thought I should press 
it on the Secretary of State, but in case Bapu thinks that it is 
not satisfactory, then I should like you to send me a cable imme¬ 
diately on receipt of my letter. The main idea, as I have under¬ 
stood, is that the responsibility of breaking the Ministry should 
fall on the Governor. I have preserved the idea in this draft. 

There is not the slightest truth in the statement that Lord 
Halifax is against the establishment of the personal touch. This 
I can say from first-hand knowledge. 

I understand the Working Committee is likely to meet 
shortly. The position here is not unhopeful, and until I find 
nothing doing here, I hope the Working Committee will not take 
steps to bang the door. People here are most anxious to get the 
Congress into office. If there is the slightest hesitation to meet 
Bapu’s point about dismissal, it is because of their distrust about 
the implications of an agreement. So far I have not come across 
anyone misunderstanding Bapu. The atmosphere is quite differ¬ 
ent from what it was in 1935. They appreciate his distrust, but 
say at the same time, ‘Why does he not accept office and find 
out for himself how far we are likely to help ?’ Of course, I 
am representing his views correctly and I have found that they 
find it difficult to answer his arguments. So let the door be kept 
open until it is banged on this side ; and I hope it will not be 
banged. 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 

A few weeks later I got the joyful news that the Con¬ 
gress had accepted office :— 


217 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

Reuters just now phoned me that at the instance of Bapu 
the Working Committee had decided to accept office in six pro¬ 
vinces and I was simply overwhelmed with joy to hear this news. 

I have no doubt in my mind that Bapu has taken the correct 
decision and no one but Bapu alone could have done this. Of 
course, I feel that demands have partially been met, but an 
ordinary politician would not have the courage to make any 
advance under such circumstances. However, our trial begins 
now, and here again I have no doubt that with Bapu’s guidance, 
the Congress will not only provide the most successful ministries, 
but that we shall advance towards our goal. 

Tomorrow I am going to meet Lord Halifax and Sir Findlater 
Stewart, and in a day or two I will again meet Lord Zetland and 
Lord Lothian. I am thinking of meeting a few other statesmen 
before leaving this country. I am going to impress upon them 
that if it was difficult to get the Congress in, it may be still more 
difficult to retain them, and that if they do not play the game, 
the Congress will not stay in. I also spoke of the necessity of 
keeping the Services in check. 

Let me tell you, that although Rajaji’s letter shattered my 
hopes, I was not quite unhopeful about the Congress accepting 
office. First, your complete silence did not kill my hopes. You 
know you have not written me a single letter after my arrival 
here, and I said to myself that this could not be accidental, but 
was done deliberately under the instructions of Bapu. And this 
could mean only one thing, that you did not want to say any¬ 
thing about the state of Bapu’s mind. Perhaps he wanted to 
wait until the Committee meeting at Wardha was over. 

Also please tell Bapu that my health is splendid. In the 
beginning when I had not sufficient work to do, I tried to take a 
few lessons in fencing, but then gave them up as the work increas¬ 
ed. But I am taking plenty of exercise. Fencing is not a new 
thing to me, because in my childhood I was not bad in lathi- 
playing and wrestling, and I just wanted to revive my old practice. 
But I think it is all useless. I am writing all this because I know 
it will amuse you. 

Yours affectionately, 

G. D. Birla • 


218 


CONGRESS TAKES OFFICE 


Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London W. 1. 

8 th July, 1937. 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

I had a talk today with Lord Halifax and I impressed upon 
him the great necessity of the Governors and the Services playing 
the game. I told him that the Congress was not coming in just 
to work the Constitution, but to advance towards their goal. 
They could do it either through the Constitution or through direct 
action. For the time being, they have dropped direct action and 
have resorted to constitutionalism. If the Governors and the 
Services played the game, then constitutionalism would prevail, 
otherwise the Congress would again be compelled to resort to 
direct action. Statesmanship demanded that the Governors and the 
Services were made aware of the intentions of Parliament that 
they have to play the game. 

He assured me on this point and said, ‘I told you this before 
also and wish to tell you again that you need have no fears at 
all on this score. The English character is such that it would adapt 
itself to the new conditions immediately. Perhaps the Indians in 
service may take a little longer, but not the Englishmen.’ 

Perhaps you know that Bapu once told me at Teethal that 
after the acceptance of office, he would himself ask for an inter¬ 
view with Lord Linlithgow in connection with his proposed visit 
to the Frontier. When I mentioned this to Halifax, he was very 
pleased and said that he was sure that Lord Linlithgow too would 
be pleased to see Bapu and he hoped that there would be no 
difficulty about his plans. 

I warned him that the Congress regime was not going to be 
smooth sailing. There would be difficulties off and on, and if 
Lord Linlithgow knew Bapu, he could always call on his advice 
which would be immensely helpful. He knew this and said that 
he had no doubt that Linlithgow would take advantage of estab¬ 
lishing personal friendship with Bapu. I think perhaps Bapu 
should now plan ahead. 

I was very interested to note the contents of Bapu’s letter to 
Lothian in which he invited him to go to India. I too had 
spoken to him a few days ago on the same matter and I under¬ 
stand that he is giving serious attention to this. I mentioned 
this to Halifax and said that not only Lothian but others also 
should go, so that they could come in closer touch. I suggested 


219 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


the names of Lansbury and Churchill. He liked the idea. He 
said that apart from establishing personal friendship, they could 
act as interpreters and explain British intentions to the Congress 
and vice versa. 

Last night, dining with Sir George and Lady Schuster, I 
had a very interesting talk with Sir George regarding Indian 
finance. 

I told him how we were likely to meet difficulties in respect 
of finance for advancement of social work. I asked him whether 
he could make any useful suggestion. 

He recommended that I should visit the Scandinavian coun¬ 
tries to study conditions there. He also wanted me to see 
Daniel Hamilton’s place. He said he could not do much when 
he served in India because everything had to be done with a 
‘money motive’. He said, ‘The Banking Enquiry Commission 
cost the Government of India 29 lacs of rupees. Even in England 
it would not cost more than a few hundred pounds. In India 
while the “money game” which is the practice of today, may not 
be allowed to expand, the “service game” should be expanded, 
which when fully expanded automatically would obscure the 
“money game.” ’ 

He of course warned me not to talk in theoretical language 
or else it would frighten the Conservatives in India. But he fully 
believed that with the inspiration of Bapu, it should be possible 
to expand the ‘service game’ and thus what we wanted to achieve 
could be achieved without increasing our budgets. In other 
words, he wants to dethrone the ‘money standard’ and enthrone 
the ‘labour standard’. 

I hope you will see in this (enclosed) article from The Times 
the editor’s effort to explain the difference between ‘combating’ 
and ‘wrecking’. So now they have understood the difference. 

I was lunching the other day with Mr. Butler. The general 
impression here has been one of entire satisfaction and I have no 
doubt that everyone will be helpful and sympathetic towards the 
Congress. I am also meeting Churchill after some time. Lord 
Derby has invited me to lunch and Oliver Stanley, another Minis¬ 
ter who is now at the Board of Trade is coming to lunch with me. 
Sir Roger Lumley, the Governor of Bombay, also is coming to 
dine. 




220 


CONGRESS TAKES OFFICE 


In the course of these personal contacts I am impressing 
upon them the point that the Congress has come in not merely 
to work the Constitution but to march ahead. They must be 
helpful and not obstructive, and that obstruction in our march 
would mean compulsion on the Congress to resort again to direct 
action. But I find everyone here sympathetic, and they assure 
me that British public opinion will fully support the Congress 
in advancing towards their goal, which of course they interpret 
to be Dominion Status. If independence means severing the 
connection with the Empire, then they are totally against it. In 
Dominion Status we have the right to secede, and that is quite 

enough. Yours affectionately, 

G. D. Birla 


* * * * 

Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London W.l. 

12th July 1937. 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

It appears that some of these so-called moderates have 
already started talking here so as to give an idea that the Con¬ 
gress will not be in office for long. Perhaps this is a case of 
the wish being father to the thought. They talk like this : ‘What 
will happen if Jawaharlal begins to preach sedition ? Will he 
be arrested ? If not, then the Governor must interfere.’ All 
this rot is being conveyed to the politicians and statesmen here, 
but I don’t think it cuts much ice. 

I challenged a moderate to tell me what he meant by Jawahar¬ 
lal preaching sedition ? He said he would preach independence. 
I retorted, ‘What is wrong about preaching independence ? Has 
not every Dominion the right to secede ? There are members of 
the Cabinet of the South African Union who are preaching secession 
from the Empire.’ 

I am writing all this just to tell you that the so-called mode¬ 
rates don’t seem to be genuinely happy that the Congress has 
accepted office, because if the Congress rules, then their history 
becomes a closed chapter, once for all. They are still dreaming 
that they will rule. 

* * * * 

Sir Roger Lumley (now Lord Scarborough) seems to 
have been a believer in personal contact. After a talk 


221 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

with him when he was Governor-Designate of Bombay,, 
I wrote to Mahadev Desai:— 

We talked for nearly two hours. He tried to get as much 
as he could from me about our people. But he specially wanted 
to see Bapu, and he is very eager that he should know him as 
soon as he goes to India. Could you tell me how this could be 
possible ? Bapu of course rarely goes to Bombay, but perhaps 
he will go to see the Governor. 

Another important point which he inquired about was whether 
the Ministers would come to lunch and dine with him whenever 
invited. I said I could not say anything on this question. I 
told him that as a matter of fact Bapu was against such enter¬ 
tainments, but whether the Ministers would be allowed to lunch 
or dine when they were invited was more than I could say, and 
that the best person to talk to in this respect would be Bapu. 

Now as regards your suggestion to go to Lourdes in France, 
I must tell you that nothing interests me just now except going 
back to India as soon as possible. But I fear we will be detained 
here up to the middle of September. 

Yes, I will bring your fine tool boxes and science boxes. 
Please write to me if I can do anything further. 

My next report to Bapu concerned an interview 
with Mr. Churchill:— 

22nd July, 1937. 

I was lunching today with Churchill at his house and again 
enjoyed his company for two hours. As usual, he was very 
cordial and charming, but very ill-informed about India. 

Immediately on seeing me, he said, ‘Well, a big experiment 
has begun,’ and when I said, ‘Yes, it has begun but it will require 
all your sympathy and good wishes,’ he assured me of these, but 
all the same said, ‘It depends entirely on you. You know I have 
not spoken a word against the Act after the King’s signature was 
put on it, and if you can make this experiment a success, you 
will reach your goal automatically. You know how democracy 
is attacked all over the world. It is only Great Britain that has 
preserved democracy and if you can show by your actions that 
you can make democracy a success, you will have no difficulty 
in advancing further. Play fair and we will play fair.’ 


222 


CONGRESS TAKES OFFICE 


‘What do you mean by “play fair”, I asked. He replied,, 
‘Make the provinces contented, peaceful and prosperous. Don’t 
allow violence and don’t murder Englishmen.’ I said, ‘I am 
simply shocked at what you say. Do you seriously believe that 
we are going to murder Englishmen ?’ He was rather surprised 
at my own complacence but accepted the assurance that India 
did not believe in violence. I added, ‘Even the most extremist 
Congressman is not anti-British. He is certainly for independence, 
but this does not mean that one should become anti-British.’ He 
asked whether I could say this about Jawaharlal also. I replied, 
‘I can. I am a capitalist and he is a socialist and we have got 
different views on economic and social matters, but all the same, 
in fairness to him, I must say that he is a great man, very sincere 
and not at all anti-British. You must go to India to see things 
for yourself because then you will be of great help to us.’ He said, 
‘Yes, I will go. Linlithgow has already invited me to go but if 
Mr. Gandhi also desires it, I will go. Give your leader my 
greetings and tell him that I wish him all success. Don’t feel 
shy of fighting socialism. Accumulation of wealth is a good thing 
because it creates initiative, but of course capitalists have to be 
servants and not masters.’ 

He was very sceptical about the future of the European 
political situation. For one more year he did not expect any 
war, but he could not say about the far future. He said, ‘The 
dictators are getting mad and they may do anything in order 
to preserve their power. Russia is getting less communistic 
and Germany is getting more socialistic. So they are finding 
common ground to some extent. England is the only country 
which has preserved democracy. I started agitating for rearm¬ 
ing England because I believe that nations are ruled either by 
right or by force. Right is the better method of ruling, but you 
cannot establish right unless you have force. And now we 
have got force with the help of which we can establish right. 
Italy is dreaming of establishing an Empire.’ 

He went on in this mood for a pretty long time. This 
time he himself suggested that I should keep him well informed 
about the situation in India and I have promised to do so. 

Here are some cuttings which will interest you. The 
Morning Post is simply poisoning people here, but it does not 
matter so long as we do the right thing. 


223 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

How correctly Churchill anticipated a war! For 
one more year peace, and then no one knew! 

Lord Lothian proved himself a' good friend to 
India at this critical period. I wrote to Mahadev (for 
Bapu) :— 

30 th July, 1937. 

Lord Lothian came to see me last evening and I had a 
long talk with him about the future. I said, ‘Although the 
Congress has accepted Office, it has not done so just to be 
satisfied with the present Constitution but to replace it by some¬ 
thing which they like. And now that they have done what you 
wanted, how do you visualise that by working this Constitution 
they will be able to replace it by something of their own choice?’ 
He replied, ‘You should not challenge the Services or commu- 
nalism for some time, but on other matters of your social pro¬ 
gramme, you should brook no interference from the Governors. 
This will in course of time establish conventions and thus pro¬ 
vincial autonomy will become complete. As regards the Centre, 
when the Federation comes, I hope that the Congress will be 
able to have its own Ministry.’ 

I pointed out to him that out of 375 seats the Congress 
would hardly get 100 seats and thus it could not have a majo¬ 
rity. To this he replied, ‘Even without a majority, the Congress 
being the largest party will be able to command a majority.’ I 
did not dispute this. Then he suggested we should immediately 
challenge the Army budgets which will mean discussion with 
the Governor-General and consequently some say, and fin ally 
greater say, in the question of Army budgets. I asked, ‘How 
will this give us control over the Army or Foreign Affairs? 
You have claimed that the Constitution contains within itself 
seeds of automatic growth, and now you have to prove how we 
shall get what some of us call Domination Status.’ 

He had to admit that without a new Act it was not 
possible. Then I told him what I visualised. I agreed that by 
tact and persuasion we should establish conventions which, 
within the next two or three years, would give us complete pro¬ 
vincial autonomy. We should see that law and order was main¬ 
tained- and impartiality in communal matters was observed. 
The Services perhaps would become real servants. This was 


224 


CONGRESS TAKES OFFICE 

satisfactory so far as it went, but I had my own doubts whether 
we should be able to achieve this position at the Centre even in 
transferred subjects. I, therefore, visualised that after working 
the Constitution for two or three years successfully, we should 
send a small delegation of public men to England who would 
talk informally with the Cabinet Ministers here, and would tell 
them that they had done their best to advance through constitu¬ 
tional lines but then they had come to a dead stop because no 
further progress was possible without a new Act. They should 
try to persuade the Government here to give them something to 
their own liking and they should tell them clearly that India 
could not be satisfied with her present position. And unless 
there was a permanent agreement there was likelihood of direct 
action. 

Then I asked Lord Lothian whether such a move would 
persuade the Government here to be reasonable and listen to 
us. And in order that the Cabinet Ministers and the people 
here should give us friendly treatment at the proper time, I 
suggested that we should spend the next two or three years in 
making the Constitution a success from every point of view and 
in establishing personal contacts. Eminent persons from England 
should go to India and vice versa. 

He said he liked the idea, and he expected that this would 
make a tremendous impression on the British mind at the proper 
time, and that perhaps we would be able to get what we wanted 
through such a course. He said he had written to Bapu and 
that perhaps in the middle of November he would leave for 
India. Of course, he said this should be kept private. I asked 
him if he had chalked out his programme. ‘No,’ he said, ‘I 
have no desire to make speeches.’ I replied, T don’t want you 
to make speeches. But what I want to know is whether you 
will go to India as a guest of the British or as a guest of India.’ 
He said, ‘Certainly of India. I will see Gandhiji.’ But I said, 
‘That is not all. You should see as many Congressmen as you 
can. You should not stay at Government House but you should 
stay with Indians.’ 

I asked him whether he would care to stay with me in 
Delhi and Calcutta. He replied, ‘For a day perhaps I will 
have to stay at Government House, but otherwise I should be 
delighted to stay with you.’ I told him that I had spoken 

225 

15 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

similarly to Churchill, and perhaps he would go if Bapu invited 
him. He was very interested. He agreed with me that I should 
make a similar request to Earl Baldwin. 

I pointed out to him that in case there was no advance 
after two or three years, then India would be compelled to take 
direct action again. But by direct action Lord Lothian under¬ 
stands nothing but bloody revolution. He cannot conceive of 
non-violent mass civil disobedience. He thinks that Jawahar- 
lalji is submitting to Bapu because he cannot help it, but at the 
proper time he will rise and as he does not believe in non¬ 
violent civil disobedience, he will lead India to revolution. 
Young men will follow him. The result will be that capitalists 
will organise on fascist lines and the peasantry on communistic 
lines. 

Again and again I tried to point out to him that being a 
European he knew of nothing else but Communism and Fascism, 
but in India a third line had been adopted with some degree 
of success and that was a non-violent revolution. I told him 
that the Congress would not resort to direct action unless they 
were sure that they would be able to preserve the non-violent 
nature of their action. But he said human nature was what it 
was. He could not believe that such a thing could happen. 

Then he said, ‘Mr. Gandhi is respected because he is a 
saintly man, but when it comes to fighting, they will all throw 
him to the winds. Jawaharlal will never submit to Gandhi- 
rule.’ In spite of all my arguments he could not be convinced 
on this point and said that, at least to understand what I said,, 
he would go to India. 

By this mail I have received Bapu’s letter in his own 
handwriting and also yours. I liked Bapu’s letter so much that 
I have sent copies of the same to Lords Halifax and Lothian 
and also to Churchill. I have also sent copies of his last articles 
on ‘Ministerial Salary’ to all the important men. 

Please keep me well informed. Although I am going 
away to the Continent—because in August they don’t work 
here—we have to reassemble about the first week of September. 
It is most disgusting that we should be kept here cooling our 
heels. But it cannot be helped. 

We get some occasional Press telegrams about India in 
The Times and the Daily Herald . But in a way we are 


226 



CONGRESS TAKES OFFICE 


absolutely cut off, and so I have asked Devadas to send me the 
Hindustan Times regularly. 

* * * $ 

Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London W. 1. 

4th Sept., 1937. 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

Your letters are something more than interesting. I am 
like a man in the Sahara, who is in need of water. Devadas, 
although I asked him, has not yet begun to send me copies of 
the Hindustan Times with the result that I am in a way cut off 
from India. My son sends me some Press cuttings and I keep 
contact with the Harijan. But all this cannot tell me what you 
can, and so when I get your letters, I drink deep. And when 
Bapu writes to me, I find myself in seventh heaven. Sometimes 
I send quotations from your letters to Lord Halifax and other 
friends, but recently I have stopped doing so because while 
India may be very important to me, it is perhaps not so important 
to them when bombs and bullets are raining in Shanghai and 
Franco is torpedoing British ships. 

Bapu’s action in settling the hunger strike of the Andaman 
prisoners was a master stroke and was very much appreciated 
here. I have no doubt that the authorities both here and there 
must have heaved a sigh of relief when they found Bapu coming 
to their rescue. It appears that he is fast developing a friend¬ 
ship with the Viceroy. But what is most important is that he 
is showing us the way towards co-operation. He had said so 
many times in the past that he was dying to co-operate and that 
non-co-operation was only a step, towards co-operation, and 
now he is proving it by his actions. I am sure if we can develop 
strength, there is no risk in co-operation. 

Lakshminiwas has been sending me some cuttings of the 
Indian Press from which it appears that indiscipline is becoming 
rampant. I very much disliked the peasants in Bihar march¬ 
ing to the Assembly House and occupying all the seats of the 
Assembly and refusing to vacate them in spite of the request 
of the Premier. And then the Premier addressed them, and told 
them all sorts of sweet things without telling them that they 
were wrong in occupying the Assembly seats and refusing to vacate 
them. Bapu has rightly written against the demonstration that 
was made against Raghavendra Rao, but I fear that in course 


227 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


of time indiscipline will grow more and more unless strict 
measures are taken. I only hope that the Congress authorities 
are fully alive to the situation and will take all necessary 
measures. The rank and file seems to be confusing freedom 
with indiscipline. 

As regards your Secretariat, I am surprised when you tell 
me that some day I should help you in overhauling it. Am I 
not ready to help ? But when have you asked for my help ? I 
have been quarrelling with Bapu for the last seven years about your 
Secretariat, but in vain. Every letter has to be written by 
himself, sometimes with his right hand, sometimes with the left. 
Your typists are a collection for a museum. I have argued 
with Bapu about efficiency. He agreed in principle, but when 
he needed a good stenographer in London and I offered him 
one, he called Polak’s sister to work ! In any case, I am ready, 
Mahadevbhai. 

I have not yet ordered the Atlas. As regards the reference 
books, I am already ordering The Statesman's Year Book. Please 
write to me what other books you need and I will order them. 
I am also sending a carpenter’s tool box for your son. 

Yours affectionately, 

G. D. Birla 

Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London W. 1. 

8th Sept., 1937. 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

Your letter of the 26th was rather disturbing as far as 
Bapu’s health goes, and so I sent you a cable inquiring about 
him, but as I have not received your reply so far, it has 
increased my anxiety. The only relieving factor is that there 
is no mention about his health in the Press, and, therefore, I am 
taking it for granted that he is better now. In any case the 
question of his rest has to be settled, and it was only in your 
last letter that you wrote to me that he had realised the posi¬ 
tion and was taking more rest. I wonder why in the 
circumstances his health should have deteriorated. 

In your letter you have written that I should come soon 
and I have cabled you saying that ordinarily I propose to sail 
on the 7th of October but in case you want me earlier, you 
have simply to cable and I will come, leaving everything as it is. 

Just now I am not making any use of your letters or 


228 


CONGRESS TAKES OFFICE 


articles because the country seems to be in a great ferment 
due to the political situation in the Mediterranean and the 
Far East. Everybody seems to be very busy and I myself fear 
that in course of time it may develop into something serious. 
Great Britain swallowed ail insults in 1935 when Italy attacked 
Abyssinia, but now she is in a much stronger position and she 
will be stronger still after a year. On account of provocation 
in the Mediterranean and the Far East, she has now begun to 
take a stiffer attitude and after a year when she becomes very 
strong, perhaps she will not tolerate any provocation. On the 
other hand, it seems as if Japan is in a fighting mood, and 
Hitler wants his colonies back and Italy is also rattling her 
sword. I wonder whether they are all correctly estimating the 
strength of Great Britain? If they know that Great Britain will 
be in a much stronger position after a year, they may perhaps 
want to see a flare-up now rather than a year hence. On the 
other hand, there is a definite break between Italy and Russia 
and how far it will spread no one can say. So you will see, the 
political situation just now is most precarious and yet it is a 
fact that Great Britain is not at all eager to fight. Even if there 
is a fight, she would like to keep out as long as possible, but 
feelings between the Fascist States and Bolshevist Russia on the 
one hand, and Japan and Great Britain on the other are very bad. 

Yours affectionately, 

G. D. Birla 


229 


CHAPTER XX 

1937 


I spent some time in England in 1937 but the burning 
questions whether the Congress should accept office in 
the Provinces, and then whether detenus should be 
released, pursued me there. The stubborn refusal to 
take office distressed me sorely. This feeling found 
vent in a letter to Rajaji, dated July 3, 1937:— 

You will, I am sure, appreciate my disappointment at your 
decision. I am in closer touch with the representatives of England 
than you, and therefore, I am not suffering from distrust as much 
as you are. In consequence, I naturally believe that if, like 
myself, you also came into personal contact, your distrust would 
vanish into thin air. And the method of coming in contact is 
the acceptance of office. I don’t believe for a moment that after 
all this clarification from both sides, any Governor will dare inter¬ 
fere. And all my arguments are based on this assumption. I 
know you dispute this contention, but I have got no other argu¬ 
ment against that except that you can try and see for yourself. 

I have not yet forgotten the fact that when Bapu went to 
Lord Irwin’s house, he was almost convinced that Lord Irwin 
was not a straight man, and he went there with a feeling of 
distrust. But when he returned (I met him before any one else 
did, because he dropped off at my house to pick me up) the 
first thing I asked was what he thought of the man, to which 
he replied that the man was honest. I felt greatly relieved at 
this. I may tell you even today that distrust is entirely due to 
a lack of the personal touch. And in our own interest we should 
establish personal contact. But perhaps Bapu’s judgment is 
more sound than that of any of us and so we must all reconcile 
ourselves to it although, I must confess, my brain refuses to do so. 

While at times I feel disappointed, I also feel that I am 
amply compensated in having to defend Englishmen before Bapu, 
and Bapu before Englishmen. It is a very interesting task. I 
would have no heart to do it, but the more I discuss Bapu 
with Englishmen and vice versa, the more I believe that it is a 
tragedy that these two big forces in the world cannot combine. 


230 


1937 

I think it will be a service to the world when they do. And this 
conviction cheers me up. 

No sooner were Ministers in office, than there was 
a popular demand for the release of political prisoners 
still detained. Bengal, naturally, was chiefly affected. 
Writing to Nalini Sarkar from London on September 
17th, I said :— 

There is one special point on which I want to write to 
you. You know what Gandhiji has done in respect of the 
detenus. He has saved every one from great embarrassment, 
and I have no doubt that the Government of India as well as 
everyone else is very thankful to him. But now the question 
arises about the release of the detenus. You know Gandhiji 
has in a way pledged himself to the detenus for relief; and 
‘relief’ means nothing else but release. 

I understand your difficulties, and am not oblivious of the 
difficulties of a wholesale release at once. But once release in 
right earnest begins, complete release becomes only a matter of 
time. After all, I don’t think anybody wants to be vindictive. 
Their internment was in the interests of law and order and if law 
and order could be assured by their release, then their release 
becomes necessary. 

Gandhiji’s health is very bad and he has now identified 
himself with the release of the detenus. I was very happy when 
I found that owing to his intervention the hunger-strike was 
abandoned. But now I see its implications with a little anxiety. 
I am therefore asking you to kindly do your best—to do as 
much as you can—to meet Gandhiji’s wishes. 

I understand Gandhiji appealed to your Ministry and got 
a very discourteous reply. On the other hand the Viceroy sent 
him a very friendly reply. Just imagine his getting a rebuff 
from our own people. Don’t you think that you as a Minister 
have got great responsibilities? Surely you can bring some kind 
of pressure on the other Ministers. 

Would you, on my behalf, request His Excellency to analyse 
the situation ? My main object is to give Gandhiji every chance of 
creating peaceful conditions and you know he is working day and 
night for this. You say how he reprimanded the demonstration in 
favour of the Kakori prisoners. And you know what he has 


231 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


been saying in and out of season as regards the establishment of 
a non-violent spirit in the country. And you know and I know 
that he is not a visionary. Whatever is done now will be most 
helpful to us as well as to our partners the British, and I have no 
doubt that Sir John Anderson is a man who can see far ahead. 
The Viceroy is also in a very helpful mood. Gandhiji is an old 
man and we will have a lot of trouble after he is no longer with 
us. But if we can establish traditions of co-operation and peace¬ 
fulness during his lifetime, it would save India from a great 
deal of trouble and England from much embarrassment. If neces¬ 
sary, please read my letter to His Excellency but do your best. 
You should not forget that whatever the nature of your office, 
you are a Minister, and have responsibilities, which fact I am 
sure you do realise. 

The continued detention of political prisoners in 
Bengal was a cause of irritation and unrest. Efforts to 
impress this on the British Government occupied much 
of my time during the remainder of my stay in England, 
and on my return I devised a formula which both Gandhiji 
and Nalini Sarkar accepted, the latter on behalf of the 
Government of Bengal. It proposed that 1100 of those 
detained in homes and villages should be released imme¬ 
diately, and those detained in jails should be released in 
batches over a period not exceeding four months. No 
one was to remain in jail after 4 months, unless Gandhiji 
specifically said that he could not get any satisfactory 
assurance for a particular individual and therefore could 
not recommend his release. But the Government should 
accept all Gandhiji’s recommendations. 

Nalini Sarkar habitually realised his responsibilities 
and was a true servant of Bengal. Unhappily, Gandhiji 
became very ill just then and there was no equally trusted 
arbiter to take his place. The advocacy of violence by 
some non-Congress leaders greatly complicated the prob¬ 
lem of release. Politics in Bengal at this time unfor¬ 
tunately degenerated into a series of feuds, and the local 
Government, which was then a coalition had to function 
in an unpleasant atmosphere. 


232 


CHAPTER XXI 

SOME INNER HISTORY 


Before we leave the story of the Congress’ acceptance 
of office in the provinces and the bright prospect that 
lay before us—only to be shattered so tragically two 
years later by the impact of the World War—let us look 
at some of the inner history of how acceptance came 
about. Bapu himself wrote to me as follows:— 

Maganwadi, Wardha, 
16th July , 1937 . 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

I appreciate your surprise at my silence. It was as deli¬ 
berate as it was inevitable, for there was nothing that I could 
communicate to you. I could see that the letters Bapu was 
receiving every day from various parts of the country were 
making him incline more and more towards office acceptance, 
but I must also say that Lord Zetland’s second speech—I mean 
the one in which he repudiated the criticism that he had closed 
the door against conciliation—left a favourable impression on 
Bapu and it is since that moment that he began to veer round 
towards acceptance. When Jawahar came to Wardha three 
days before the Working Committee, Bapu’s mind had been 
made up, and I must say to the credit of Jawahar that it did not 
prove difficult to persuade him. Throughout the Committee 
meeting, I am told his attitude was noble and worthy of his best 
instincts and that was why the whole meeting went off well. 

Well, that’s a bit of history. I must tell you the spirit 
in which Bapu has approached the whole question. ‘C.R’. 
asked for Bapu’s blessings to be wired to him and his colleagues 
when they were all sworn in as ministers. Bapu sent a wire but 
made it clear that it was not for publicity. Here is the text : 
‘Private. Deepest Prayer has been the spring on which I have 
drawn for guiding the Committee. You know how my hope is 
centred in you. May God bless your effort. Don’t publish 
this. I have no right to send a message to members. For that 
you must ask Jawaharlal. Love.’ 


233 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


In your talks with men like Lord Halifax you may refer to 
this telegram and even show them the text of it. But more 
indicative of the spirit in which he wants our legislators to go to 
the Assembly is Bapu’s latest article in the Harijan, of which 
I send you a copy. I should like to know the reaction of the 
British to this article. You can ascertain it by showing it to 
them, as they are not likely to read it otherwise. You may per¬ 
haps have copies made of it and send them to friends. I also 
enclose a cutting of C.R.’s speech two days before he was invited 
by the Governor. 

Yours affectionately, 
Mahadev 

Some more inner history was revealed to me in a letter 
from Bapu’s faithful private secretary, Mahadev Desai. 

Segaon, 18th July, 1937. 

Brother G.D., 

I read all your letters with great care. I did not find time 
to write to you nor have desire to write. And what could I 
have written? Every moment the situation was changing and 
mending. Under such circumstances to write was inappropriate. 
To write to others was necessary because I wanted to be as 
much influenced by those who wrote to me as possible. How 
far your letters influenced me I cannot say. But of course I can 
say this much that the letters received from overseas influenced 
me less, and what was happening in India influenced me more. 
You could say that my condition was like that of a woman who 
was to be confined soon. So many things happen inside the 
woman who is to be confined. But the poor woman cannot 
describe them. Now we know what has happened. But I will 
say this : whatever Jawahar did or said in the Working Com¬ 
mittee was simply marvellous. In any case he was high in my 
esteem, but now he has risen much higher ; and the beauty is 
that we still disagree ! 

Our real trouble begins now. So much is good that a our 
future depends on our strength, truthfulness, courage, determina¬ 
tion, diligence and discipline. What you have been doing is 
good. Let the authorities realise that there is no padding in 
the resolution of the Working Committee. Every word has its 
meaning and each will be put into action. In the end, what 


234 


SOME INNER HISTORY 


has been done has been done in the name of God and with 
trust in God. Good you will be. Good you remain. 

Blessings, 

Bapu. 

Bapu’s articles in Harijan, insisting on simplicity and 
economy (to an extent which our Ministers have 
found impossible ; no motor-cars !) attracted much 
attention at this time. In one he quoted at length, as 
coming from ‘an English financier who has held high 
offices in India’, the views of Sir George Schuster which 
I had written to him concerning the need to replace the 
money motive by the service motive and the co-opera¬ 
tive method. 

Fair indeed the future prospect seemed when the 
Viceroy and Bapu first met:— 

Viceroy’s Camp, India, 

23rd July, 1937. 

Dear Mr. Gandhi, 

It would give me much pleasure if you could find it possible 
to come and see me in New Delhi when I pass through on my 
way back to Simla. If this suggestion is agreeable to you, would 
11-30 a.m. on Wednesday, August 4th, at Viceroy’s House, be 
convenient? 

I have no particular business of a public nature with which 
to trouble you. But it will be a real pleasure to me to meet you, 
and I greatly hope that you may find it possible to come. 

Yours sincerely, 
Linlithgow 

* * Jfs * 

Segaon, Wardha, 24-7-37. 

Dear Friend, 

I thank you for your kind letter. 

I had for some time intended to ask for an appointment 
to discuss the possibility of lifting the ban on Khan Saheb, 
Abdul Gaffar Khan’s entry into the Frontier Province and of my 
visiting that Province. Of course there is no bar against me but 


235 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

I had no intention of going there except with the approval of the 
authorities. 

Your letter is therefore doubly welcome. I assume that 
there woujd be no objection to my discussing these two points at 
our meeting. I shall gladly report myself at Viceroy’s House, 
New Delhi, on 4th August next at 11-30 a.m. 

I remain, 

Yours sincerely, 

M. K. Gandhi 

Copies of these letters reached me in London in a 
long letter from Mahadev Desai. After describing the 
successes already obtained by ‘C.R.’ in Madras and 
others, he went on :— 

You say Sir Roger Lumley i& very anxious to see Bapu, 
and you ask how this is to be possible. Perhaps he knew the 
conditions better than you. For the ice has already been 
broken. And before this gets into your hands the newspapers 
will have flashed the news that Bapu has seen the Viceroy. 
Four days ago we were agreeably surprised to find a magis¬ 
trate of this place at Segaon, gone there specially to deliver 
personally to Bapu some important official document. It was a 
personal letter from Lord Linlithgow inviting Bapu to see him. 
Evidently he had sent it to the Governor to be delivered per¬ 
sonally. I shall tell you Bapu’s instantaneous reaction, for this 
little thing shows how non-violent to the core is Bapu. He said, 
‘I am sure somebody has told the Viceroy that I should never 
go to him without an invitation from him, and this poor man 
will be misinterpreted the moment the world knows that it was 
he who invited me and not I who sought the interview.’ The 
non-violence in Bapu’s nature instinctively rebelled against a 
possible compromise of the dignity or prestige of the Viceroy. 
And then he wrote out a reply in his own hand. I enclose 
copies of both. He would have given some expression of his 
feeling in his reply, but he refrained from doing so. As he 
said to me : ‘Doesn’t he know his own business ? Why should 
I presume to advise him ? The Viceroy is just now touring in 
Assam and Bihar and I do not know whether Bapu’s letter will 
be in his hands before he is actually in Delhi. Bapu has raised 
the question of the North-West Frontier, but we trust it will 


236 


SOME INNER HISTORY 


create no difficulty. If this interview was meant merely to break 
the ice how could the Viceroy say more than he has done? 
But evidently it cannot be all just for the ‘pleasure of meeting 
Mr. Gandhi.’ They can’t separate after just saying, ‘How do 
you do?’ However, it is not very likely that the interview will 
go on beyond an hour or so. But I must not anticipate. So 
you have to tell Sir Roger Lumley that he has but to summon 
Bapu and he will be only too glad to ‘report himself’. 

What you said to Sir Roger about Ministers accepting 
invitations to dinners and parties shows your instinctive know¬ 
ledge of Bapu. Vallabhbhai was here last week to discuss this 
and various other questions of procedure. You will be sorry 
to learn that they decided to have nothing to do with enter¬ 
tainments. Accepting an invitation from the Governor pre¬ 
supposes readiness on the part of the Ministers to return the 
courtesy. How can our poor Ministers indulge in social ameni¬ 
ties of this kind? But it is not merely a question of poverty. 
Bapu feels that at least for some years in the best interests of 
the country it would be wisest to maintain strictly official relations. 

What you say about Churchill is most interesting. When 
he uttered that sentence about violence and Indians murdering 
Englishmen why did you not remind him of his article in which 
he threatened us with dread consequences if we refused to accept 
office? The cruel word that he used about Bapu’s statement 
still smarts in my memory. Do you know the word? He 
described those statements as ‘Gandhi’s barbed-wire blandish¬ 
ments’. But that is Churchill all over. At the time of the 
Irish settlement it was he who invited Michael Collins to his place 
and laughed and joked with him and told him that whereas the 
British Government had set a price of only £1,000 on his (Collins’) 
head, the Boers had set a price of only £10 on his i.e. Churchill’s 
head. I am quite sure his greetings to Bapu are perfectly 
genuine. And you must convey Bapu’s thanks to him. In 1931 
he declined to see Bapu, but now if he comes to India at Bapu’s 
instance I suppose he will ask for the interview himself. 

Soon came the report of the first meeting:— 

Viceregal Lodge, 4th Aug., 1937. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

A strange place for me to write from. Is not it ? And you 


237 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

will see that I am not yet familiar with the name, for though 
I know that the Delhi Palace is called the Viceroy’s House it 
is the Simla one that is called the Viceregal Lodge. Well, 
whilst Bapu is busy with the Viceroy I am making myself 
useful, writing a few letters that Bapu asked me to write on 
our way here. Your dear old chauffeur (I mean the young 
handsome chauffeur dressed in clothes more spotlessly white 
than I wear) drove us here, and Bapu was closeted with H. E. 
at 11-30 a.m. The interview seemed to be more to break the 
ice, as I told you, than for any specific purpose, and Bapu him¬ 
self went in determined not to broach any subject of his own 
accord—excepting of course the Frontier question that he him¬ 
self had mentioned in his reply to the Viceroy. But I have 
finished all my letters, it is close on one o’clock and still Bapu 
is not out: which means that matters of moment are being 
discussed. 

It seems your latest letter to me is awaiting me at Wardha, 
for Devdas had a copy yesterday and the original must have gone 
to Wardha also at the same time. I suppose Lord L. knew 
when he was talking to you that this thing was coming off. 

Yours affectionately, 
Mahadev 

PS.—This is after the interview. It was quite good, frank 
and cordial. It lasted for about an hour and a half. The 
Frontier door is open so far as Bapu is concerned, but not yet 
for the Khan Saheb who, said the Viceroy, must make a repre¬ 
sentation to the Governor. Bapu told H.E. at length who the 
Khan Saheb was and how he could not be expected to make 
the representation. But he is hopeful that the way will be 
clear. And now the Frontier Ministry has resigned, so it may 
be expected that it will be quite all right. 

H.E. raised no objection whatsoever about discussing the 
Frontier question and made no difficulty about Bapu going there. 

The other topics discussed were rural uplift, cows, hand¬ 
made paper and reed pens and so on. 

Mahadev 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, Wardha, 6th Aug., 1937 . 

The enclosed summarises the interview. This is exclusively 
for you and in reply to your letter of the 27th and 28th.. 


238 



SOME INNER HISTORY 


Though the ice has been broken, he does not attach any more 
importance to it than he would to a friendly interchange of 
views. The old imperialism still subsists and it may be very 
long before it yields. Bapu would caution you against setting 
much store by those ‘personal contacts’, and he is not at 
all inclined to extend the invitation he did to Lord Lothian, to 
Churchill or Lord Baldwin or other friends. If they would 
come of their own accord they are perfectly welcome, but Bapu 
would not request them to come. Besides he does not want 
to assume the status of a Congress Leader, to extend that in¬ 
vitation to them. With Lord Lothian it was a different matter. 
He had played an important role as a bridge-builder, and he 
had directly written to Bapu more than once. The suggestion, 
or if you please, the invitation came therefore in the natural 
course of things, and out of an instinctive impulse. The 
Churchills and others may come, talk all kinds of imperialistic 
nonsense and it would be like giving them a passport to visit 
India to say all those things. No, Bapu would have none of the 
personal contact business. 

As regards the Frontier question the Viceroy has promised 
to correspond with Bapu after he has had an opportunity of com¬ 
municating with the Governor. It is likely that the ban may 
be raised. 

I hope you are keeping well. Have you had all my letters ? 
This is a God-forsaken place and, often enough, letters posted 
in time do not catch the Air Mail. I have not missed a single 
air mail. C.F.A. arrives tomorrow—on what errand, I have not 
yet been able to guess. 

# $ * * 

Yours affectionately, 
Mai-iadev 


25-1-38. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

I shall be needing Rs. 50,0001- for village education, and 
the same amount for Udyog Sangh. Then there is the burden 
of the Harijan Sevak Sangh. More talks are needed in this 
connection. I hope Brijmohan is quite well and so is Krishna. 

With Bapu’s blessings. 


239 


CHAPTER XXII 


, NEW MINISTERS’ DIFFICULTIES 

Zurich, 16th August, 1937. 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

Your two letters are lying unreplied to. Far from being Rip 
Van Winkle, you are now giving me the fullest information and 
I am very grateful to you for this. The copies of the Hindustan 
Times are not reaching me and my connection with the Harijan 
is severed since I left London. So the only news that I get about 
India is either through private letters or through the British Press. 
The Times has been very kind to us so far and Mr. Inglis always 
sends complimentary news. The Morning Post used to write in 
a hostile manner but since I took up the question with Churchill 
and Lord Halifax it has become less unfriendly, which again 
may be a coincidence. 

I am not surprised at the news that I am getting just now. 
One day I read of some students going on strike if the Education 
Minister failed to do this or that. Then I read of some match 
workers going on hunger-strike if the Industry Minister does not 
settle their demands satisfactorily. The big Cawnpore strike was 
settled eventually but I read that once the strikers refused to 
abide by the decision of Pantji. And of course the Andamans 
hunger-strikes are still agitating the minds of the people. 

It looks as if everybody wants to have his own way under the 
Congress regime. I have no doubt that Bapu is doing all that 
is necessary to educate public opinion to keep discipline. I shall 
not be surprised if some day I hear of marches being led to the 
houses of the Ministers with flags and slogans. Suppression of 
popular feeling in the past is perhaps now having its reaction and 
it would not be bad if the steam was allowed to blow out. But 
what the people must learn is that even under Swaraj they have 
to be law-abiding, reasonable and disciplined. I have no doubt 
that in course of time they will learn. But don’t you think it is 
desirable that public education on these lines be undertaken with¬ 
out the least delay ? 

I did not quite understand why Bapu should have had an 
incredulous laugh at my telling you that his stock had gone up 


240 


NEW MINISTERS' DIFFICULTIES 

very high. I admit that stocks in the money market go up and 
come down, but as a businessman let me tell you that they don’t 
fluctuate so suddenly as you people think they do. In certain 
cases where the statistical position is sound there is always a 
period of continued steadiness and so I was quite justified when 
I said our administration could last very long. Of course it 
could not last if we wanted to break, but as this is not our desire, 
I don’t think there is going to be any serious trouble. Neither 
will the British become angels nor will our Ministers kowtow 
to them, if our Ministers continue with stability. What is likely 
to happen is that both sides will make mutual adjustments and 
perhaps it will be realised that there was a lot of good on both 
sides which was not appreciated so far. The British are very 
shrewd men, and can take a far-sighted view. I am glad to hear 
from you however that in all the provinces the Governors and 
the Ministers have begun well. 

As regards Bapu’s decision about the Ministers not accept¬ 
ing social invitations from the Governors, I felt he would be 
thinking something like that and so I correctly represented his 
views to Sir Roger. But perhaps it would be better if the Prime 
Ministers were allowed to have social relations. Then there 
would be no misunderstanding ; otherwise there is bound to be 
some. There is justification for making an exception in the case 
of the Prime Ministers. 

I note your remarks about Churchill, but you don’t reply to 
my query whether Bapu would like to have him in India. Don’t 
go by what he says. He is a politician, pure and simple, and 
I think perhaps his philosophy is to have one policy in public 
and the other in private. But I tell you that as a man he is 
full of warmth. There is no vanity about him and he has got a 
childlike simplicity. He had the honesty to admit to me that 
when he stood up in favour of the ex-King, he did not know that 
public opinion was so much against him. I also discussed with 
him the general position of the monarchy in England and why 
he was not in the Cabinet. I felt that he is one of the half- 
dozen persons who rule England and I was impressed with his 
frankness in private talks. He was very straight in telling me 
that I should not expect him to write articles in favour of India. 
He reminded me what politics were. 

241 

16 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

Your letter from Delhi did not give me much news but 
perhaps you thought it better to be discreet. I note that you 
saw the copy of my letter to you with Devadas. I always post 
one copy to Devadas, one to Rajaji and one to my brother Ramesh- 
warji who shows it to Sardar. 

For the first time I learn from your letter that the Frontier 
Ministry has resigned. So you are going to have seven ministries 
now. 

I sent you the cable about Bapu’s health because, besides 
your own letter, I read in the Press that when he got down at 
Delhi, he looked very tired. I hope he is fully recovered from 
the fatigue now. I am not writing to Bapu anything about it 
because I know nobody can look after his health better than 
Bapu himself. The only thing is that sometimes he is compelled 
to overwork and I will talk to him about it on my return. 

I entirely agree with you that it was a great mistake for the 
Sardar and Rajendrababu to have kept out. Perhaps it will be 
rectified after a year’s steady work. 

I will bring the books on bee-keeping and Cabinet Govern¬ 
ment. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

A letter from Sir George Cunningham, the Governor of 
the North-West Frontier Province quickly followed:— 

Governor’s Camp, North-West 
Frontier Province, Abbottabad, 

17th August, 1937. 

Dear Mr. Gandhi, 

I have received a letter from His Excellency the Viceroy in 
which he has given me the gist of his talk with you on the 4th 
of August. His Excellency, I understood, told you that he 
believed there would be no objection to your paying a visit to 
the North-West Frontier Province, should you desire to do so. 
I have discussed this with my Ministers, and with their authority 
I write to inform you that there will be no objection to your 
visiting the Province. His Excellency, I know, told you that he 
felt it necessary to ask you to leave all affairs connected with the 
tribes severely alone during your visit; I understand that you 


242 



NEW MINISTERS' DIFFICULTIES 

accepted His Excellency’s decision in this matter, and I know 
that you will scrupulously abide by this assurance. 

Should there be an opportunity of our meeting, it will be a 
pleasure to me to renew the acquaintance we made when I was 
with Lord Halifax. 

The auestion of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, about which 
you also spoke to His Excellency, is still under consideration by 
the Ministry. I anticipate that a decision will be reached within 
the next day or two. 

Yours sincerely, 

G. Cunningham 

The difficulties of our Ministers did not arise so much 
from the actions of the Governors, who showed themselves 
anxious to accommodate themselves to the new situation, 
as from ourselves. Bapu was much concerned at the 
violence shown, and the number of place-hunters who 
quickly showed themselves. Here are some extracts 
from a long letter from Mahadev revealing the begin¬ 
nings of trouble :— 

The Ministries are functioning fairly well. There is suffi¬ 
cient co-operation on behalf of the officials. I almost suspect 
they have orders from London to behave themselves and I grant 
that they are a much more disciplined lot than many of us. 
Fancy Garret, the Commissioner of Ahmedabad, now going to 
the station to receive Minister Morarji and travelling a fair dis¬ 
tance with him 3rd class. You know the Bardoli and Kaira 
Auctioned Lands’ Dispute ; it looks as though Garret would make 
no difficulty now, in having the lands transferred back to the 
original owners. A sub-inspector of police who had been guilty 
of tyrannical abuse of power in the past committed suicide by 
shooting himself on the eve of Minister Morarji’s arrival in Bar¬ 
doli. But that is by the way. Rajaji is having the utmost co¬ 
operation from the civilians.* There may be some difficulty in 
poor Orissa. But even that will be temporary. 

Our difficulties I am afraid will be of our own creation. We 
are yet far from being a united house. There are our friends 
who, benefiting by the new situation, would have strikes every- 

* i.e., ‘Civil Servants’. 


243 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA ' 

where, and would delight in the Ministries being condemned as 
incapable of handling situations. Rajaji has released one and 
all / of the political prisoners in his province, violent and non¬ 
violent. The last Moplah prisoner was released only the other 
day. But with what result ? Meherali who had been sentenced 
to six months’ imprisonment before Rajaji assumed office, was 
released by him on the very day he assumed office. There was 
some difficulty about his release as I had told you in one of my 
previous letters. But Rajaji succeeded in getting him free, on 
the very day when his appeal was dismissed. Within two days 
of his release, this man goes and makes a speech full of fire and 
brimstone, inciting people to violence. What is poor Rajaji to 
do ? There are half a dozen or more similar prisoners still in 
Bombay. Theirs is a difficult problem. The Ministers insisted 
on their being released but not with success. But can they break 
on this ? If we were absolutely agreed on non-violence the ques¬ 
tion should not be difficult but even as regards the implications 
of non-violence, there is a gulf between Jawaharlal and Bapu. 
The last meeting of the Working Committee was an exceptionally 
difficult one in view of the problems I have mentioned. But every¬ 
thing ultimately ended well. 

On the other difficult questions too, I expect there will not 
be much trouble. The difficulty with Jawaharlal, all said and 
done, is not insurmountable, so it seems at any rate. He frets and 
fumes, he storms, he is often in a rage, but after all he is a sport 
and so quickly regains his balance, makes rapid amends and sees 
that there is no unpleasantness left behind. 

This letter is getting long, and still the business part remains. 
You will remember that in February last you were good enough 
to arrange for free passage on one of your boats for two ladies 
who are working here for us in India. They are now in touch 
with your agents in London, and trying to find out if a free pas¬ 
sage back to India in one of your cargo boats is possible. Added 
to the two there is now a third lady, the wife-to-be of a German 
friend who is working here with us. It seems she was expelled 
from Germany, evidently for her pacifism, and her presence on a 
Hansa Line boat may not be exactly tolerable or pleasant. Have 
you any ships on which these three ladies might have a free 
passage, either from any of the English ports or the Italian ones ? 

You are silent about your health. Did you have an 


244 


NEW MINISTERS' DIFFICULTIES 

operation after all, or are you just spending the recess in Zurich? 
Bapu is very anxious to know. I have also written to Ramesh- 
wardasji in this connection, in case you may have written to 
him in detail. I hope you got my cable about Bapu. There 
was no rise in the blood pressure worth speaking of, but he 
had been feeling the strain of overwork. He distinctly saw that 
danger was ahead if he did not take precautions betimes. He 
did so at once, curtailed part of his routine work and began to 
take more rest. He automatically goes into silence after every 
evening prayer. That ensures perfect rest until 4 o’clock next 
morning. I assure you that there is nothing to be anxious 
about. 

Yours affectionately, 
Mahadev 

On August 26 Mahadev wrote again on the same 
subject:— 

The trouble, as I have before indicated, is with our own 
people. You know the Kakori Dacoity prisoners who were 
convicted some years ago of the most violent and unpardonable 
crimes. Pantji has released them all. It is a feather both in 
his cap and that of Haig*, who might well have objected to their 
release. But the moment their release was announced, our 
idiotic Congress Committee makes an announcement of taking 
these people out in procession. Poor Pantji was absolutely at 
sea. He was persuaded to be firm. He made it clear that if 
they persisted it would not be possible for him to do any such 
thing in future. Jawaharlal did not give any encouragement to 
the Congress enthusiasts. And so everything ended well. 

In Madras, Rajaji is handling the situation in his remark¬ 
ably clever way. But even he is not quite free from anxiety. 
He has to burn the candle at both ends. And there are disturb¬ 
ing elements there too. A Moplah M.L.A., whose ambition 
was to be in the Cabinet, was not taken and he now bombards 
him with letters saying that a Moplah rebellion is imminent! 
A superstition is rampant in those parts that every twenty years 
there has to be a burst-up. It is ordained by God! The last 
burst-up was in 1921. The time is ripe or nearly ripe for a 
fresh one. Rajaji emphatically says, T will not buy these fellows 

* Sir Harry Haig, Governor of the United Provinces. 


245 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

into silence.’ It is likely the threats are idle, but they continue 
to come. 

Pantji had a most difficult time of it at Cawnpore, as you 
already know. The situation in other parts also is not quite 
happy. Kher has wisely chosen Gulzarilal as his secretary and 
he is a tower of strength to him. He is here, there and every¬ 
where. He has already settled two strikes in a strikingly quick 
and satisfactory manner. But there is a limit to his capacity too. 

Yours affectionately, 
Mahadev 

In a conversation which I had with Lord Linlithgow 
at this period he revealed the fact that he personally 
did not believe in Federation. The Government of 
India Act consisted, roughly, of two parts : one con¬ 
ferred provincial autonomy at once and provided means 
for Ministries to rule; the other envisaged the Federa¬ 
tion of the whole of India, as soon as the Princes, the 
main obstacle, could be made to agree. Unfortunately 
Lord Linlithgow’s personal distaste for Federation, 
which was probably quite welcome to some of his 
Executive Council, prevented him from taking any 
early action to encourage the Princes to agree to Federa¬ 
tion. Had he done so, he had powerful argument on 
his side, for world war was clearly looming on the 
horizon. But by this time Neville Chamberlain was 
British Prime Minister, and Lord Linlithgow and indeed 
most of the British businessmen in India were blindly 
following in Chamberlain’s steps. Chamberlain pro¬ 
mised that there would be no war, and so it followed 
that the weightiest argument for Federation was ignored. 

Only at the last moment did the Viceroy wake up 
to his duty to urge Federation strongly upon the Princes. 
But even then he carried it out half-heartedly and appoint¬ 
ed, to go round the princely states on this task, an envoy 
who had no more enthusiasm for it than he had him¬ 
self. Sir Arthur Lothian would probably accept this 
as a fair description of himself. And when war came 


246 


NEW MINISTERS' DIFFICULTIES 

the Viceroy, instead of pushing Federation through, 
hastily scrapped the whole plan. Had he not done so, 
the whole history of India would have been very 
different, and partition need never have come upon us. 

Here is my note on my interviews with the Viceroy 
which I sent in a letter to Mahadev for Bapu:— 

After that, we talked about Federation. There were 
serious objections advanced by the Leftists as well as the 
Rightists. There was a likelihood of another breakdown unless 
the situation was carefully and sympathetically handled. What 
was he going to do ? He told me that he was not satisfied with 
Federation. He appreciated the objections of the critics. But 
even if he wished it, the law could not be changed. What he 
did not appreciate, however, in our criticisms was that no con¬ 
structive alternative had been suggested to him so far. I told 
him that at the proper time Bapu would do so, but the Viceroy 
should exercise his mind from this very moment as to what 
solution he could suggest. There were two things that were 
objectionable even from my point of view. Representatives of 
the Princes would come without election. And secondly it had 
yet to be proved by the authors of the Act that this Act con¬ 
tains in itself the seeds of automatic growth, a claim made off 
and on by Englishmen. Without the Army and Foreign Affairs 
under the control of the popular ministers, how ever are we going 
to reach the goal of Dominion Status ? It was for the Viceroy 
to convince the public in India by some means that what was 
said by the authors of the Act was not a mere platitude. He 
replied that what was claimed about the Act was not a mere 
platitude. He did not want to treat his Cabinet as irresponsible 
for Army and Foreign Affairs. True, legally they had no power 
over these matters. But by usage this power could be estab¬ 
lished. This of course was only his personal opinion. But he 
wanted me to leave the matter at that so that he might exercise 
his brain for the proper occasion. I pointed out to him the 
necessity of talking to Gandhiji before the Federation became a 
reality and also added that if he could cultivate acquaintance with 
Jawaharlalji, he would be benefited. He asked me when Jawahar- 
lalji was coming to Calcutta and when I told him that he would 
perhaps come on the 8 th, he remarked, ‘Oh, as early as that.’ 


247 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

Perhaps you are aware that the Viceroy will reach Calcutta on 
the 13 th or the 14th. 

The early difficulties of Ministers are illustrated in 
the following letter :— 

31st December, 1937. 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

Laithwaite came to see me yesterday and I had a long talk 
with him for nearly two hours. The detenus, the convicted 
prisoners and the question of Federation were the chief topics. 
He would convey the conversation to the Viceroy after which, 
were it necessary, I would be asked to see the Viceroy. About 
the detenus and the convicted prisoners, I told him what Andrews 
and I had already said to the Governor. Now that l had your 
letter indicating Bapu’s views, I read the same to Laithwaite 
and added that even before Bapu came to Bengal, releases must 
begin and continue. In the absence of this policy the public 
and the prisoners would begin to get restive, and if the prisoners 
again resorted to hunger-strikes, it would be very embarrassing 
to all concerned and would also have a very injurious effect on 
Bapu’s health which was equally a matter of political import¬ 
ance. He agreed with me that Bapu’s health was a matter of 
political importance and asked whether what I wanted was that 
trickles of release should begin immediately and continue so that 
the public would feel that the question was not being neglected. 
I confirmed. He pointed out to me that as far as the Andaman 
prisoners were concerned, they were being repatriated. He 
referred io Bapu’s telegram to the Viceroy which he received at 
the time of the reported hunger-strike, and he said that Bapu 
was informed about repatriation which would be finished in four 
to six weeks’ time when the question of release would be con¬ 
sidered. But I said that I was also talking about the detenus 
who could be released immediately and he is going to speak to 
the Viceroy who, I think, will help. After I have talked to the 
Viceroy, I will see the Governor again. 

As regards Federation, I said that it was very essential 
that immediately after Bapu recovered, the Viceroy should begin 
his talks with him. If Federation were imposed without agree¬ 
ment, it would have disastrous effects and I did not like delay- 


248 


NEW MINISTERS' DIFFICULTIES 

ing the matter. On the other hand, I was hopeful about Bapu 
being able to produce a solution. This will be conveyed to the 
Viceroy. 

Then we had a talk about the U.P. affair. I pointed out 
to him that when the Congress was doing its best to maintain 
peace and non-violence, it was not fair that the Governor should 
have interfered. Laithwaite’s point of view was that the 
Governors have not been interfering anywhere but, in this parti¬ 
cular case, Parmanand was preaching violence and it was having 
a very bad effect on the soldiers at Dehra Dun. Pant was pressed 
again and again but somehow or other, he neglected the issue. 
Would it be advisable to give such a long rope to the Ministers 
as would in the end cause the situation to deteriorate to such 
an extent that maintenance of law and order would become 
impossible without the help of the military? He did not like 
Kidwai’s speech in which he said that if the public did not main¬ 
tain a non-violent atmosphere, the Ministers would have to resign. 
If that was the attitude of the Ministers, then the Governor would 
always be doubtful about the capacity of the Ministers to main¬ 
tain non-violence. Would it be fair to the Governor if the 
Ministers resigned after allowing the situation to deteriorate ? 
Would it not be the duty of the Governor under such circum¬ 
stances always to watch and see that the situation did not deterio¬ 
rate unduly ? I gave a better interpretation of Kidwai’s speech. 
The Ministers derived their powers from the electorate, and if the 
whole population wanted to revolt, the Ministers would have no 
alternative but to tell the people, ‘since we do not carry your 
confidence, we resign, not because of any grievance against the 
Governor but because of your unruly behaviour.’ Kidwai’s 
speech in my opinion was the correct description of his own 
position and a wrong interpretation should not have been put 
on it. He saw my point, and yet argued that if the Ministers 
(because of the fear of the electorate) neglected their duty to¬ 
wards the maintenance of law and order, then at some stage the 
Governor must come in. Although he did not agree that the 
Governor of the U.P. had passed the limit, Laithwaite entirely 
agreed that the Ministers should be allowed full freedom even to 
make mistakes. He was curious to find out how it was that of 
all the Congress provinces, it was only in the U.P. that there was 


249 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

shilly-shallying with the violent elements. He was full of praise for 
all other Congress provinces. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

The picture of the future seemed reasonably good. 
But Lord Linlithgow’s tragic failure to consult the 
Legislature before forcing India into the War imme¬ 
diately on its outbreak, was too strong a dose for the 
Ministers to swallow. They struggled in vain to find 
a solution, and resigned when the War was a few weeks 
old. Had the Viceroy had the wisdom to consult 
India, I doubt not that she would have supported 
Britain. 

In December 1941 Bapu sent me a copy of an 
‘open letter’ he had addressed to Herr Hitler. Need¬ 
less to say, the Censor intervened and he was not 
allowed to publish it, nor—presumably—did it ever 
reach Herr Hitler:— 

Wardha, Dec. 24th, 1941. 

Dear Friend, 

That I address you as a friend is no formality. I own no 
foes. My business in life for the past 33 years has been to 
enlist the friendship of the whole of humanity by befriending 
mankind, irrespective of race, colour or creed. 

I hope you will have the time and desire to know how a 
good portion of humanity who have been living under the in¬ 
fluence of that doctrine of universal friendship, view your actions. 
We have no doubt about your bravery or devotion to your 
Fatherland, nor do we believe that you are the monster described 
by your opponents. But your own writings and pronouncements 
and those of your friends and admirers leave no room for doubt 
that many of your acts are monstrous and unbecoming of human 
dignity especially in the estimation of men like me who believe 
in universal friendliness. Such are your humiliation of Czecho¬ 
slovakia, the rape of Poland and the swallowing of Denmark. I 
am aware that your view of life regards such spoliations as vir¬ 
tuous acts. But we have been taught from childhood to regard 


250 


NEW MINISTERS’ DIFFICULTIES 

them as acts degrading to humanity. Hence we cannot possibly 
wish success to your arms. 

But ours is a unique position. We resist British Impe¬ 
rialism no less than Nazism. If there is a difference, it is in 
degree. One-fifth of the human race has been brought under the 
British heel by means that will not bear scrutiny. Our resist¬ 
ance to it does not mean harm to the British people. We seek 
to convert them, not to defeat them on the battlefield, Ours 
is an unarmed revolt against British rule. But whether we 
convert them or not, we are determined to make their rule 
impossible by non-violent non-co-operation. It is a method in 
its nature undefeatable. It is based on the knowledge that no 
spoliator can compass his end without a certain degrees of co¬ 
operation, willing or compulsory, from the victim. Our rulers 
may have our land and bodies but not our souls. They can 
have the former only by complete destruction of every Indian— 
man, woman or child. That all may not rise to that degree of 
heroism and that a fair amount of frightfulness can bend the back 
of revolt is true ; but the argument would be beside the point. 
For, if a fair number of men and women can be found in India 
who would be prepared, without any ill will against the 
spoliators, to lay down their lives rather than bend the knee to 
them, they will have shown the way to freedom from the tyranny 
of violence. I ask you to believe me when I say that you will 
find an unexpected number of such men and women in India. 
They have been having that training for the past 20 years. 

We have been trying for the past half-century to throw off 
British rule. The movement for independence has never been 
so strong as now. The most powerful political organisation, 
I mean the Indian National Congress, is trying to achieve 
this end. We have attained a very fair measure of success 
through non-violent efforts. We were groping for the right 
means to combat the most organised violence in the world which 
the British power represents. You have challenged it. It 
remains to be seen which is the better organised, the German 
or the British. We know what the British heel means for us 
and the non-European races of the world. But we would never 
wish to end British rule with German aid. We have found in 
non-violence a force which, if organised, can, without doubt, 
match itself against a combination of all the most violent forces 


251 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

in the world. In non-violent technique, as I have said, there is 
no such thing as defeat. It is all ‘Do or die’ without killing or 
hurting. It can be used practically without money and obviously 
without the aid of the science of destruction which you have 
brought to such perfection. It is a marvel to me that you do 
not see that it is nobody’s monopoly. If not the British, some 
other power will certainly improve upon your method and beat 
you with your own weapon. You are leaving no legacy to your 
people of which they would feel proud. They cannot take pride 
in a recital of cruel deeds, however skilfully planned. I, there¬ 
fore, appeal to you in the name of humanity to stop the war. 
You will lose nothing by referring all the matters of dispute 
between you and Great Britain to an international tribunal of 
your joint choice. If you attain success in the war, it will not 
prove that you were in the right. It will only prove that your 
power of destruction was greater. Whereas, an award by an 
impartial tribunal will show as far as it is humanly possible 
which party was in the right. 

You know that not long ago I made an appeal to every 
Briton to accept my method of non-violent resistance. I did it 
because the British know me as a friend though a rebel. I am 
a stranger to you and your people. I have not the courage to 
make to you the appeal I made to every Briton. But my present 
proposal is much simpler because much more practical and 
familiar. 

During this season when the hearts of the peoples of Europe 
yearn for peace, we have suspended even our own peaceful 
struggle. Is it too much to ask you to make an effort for peace 
during a time which may mean nothing to you personally but 
which must mean much to the millions of Europeans whose 
dumb cry for peace I hear, for my ears are attuned to hearing 
the dumb millions. I had intended to address a joint appeal to 
you and Signor Mussolini, whom I had the privilege of meeting 
when I was in Rome during my visit to England as a delegate 
to the Round Table Confrence. I hope that he will take this as 
addressed to him also with the necessary changes. 

I am, your sincere friend, 

M. K. Gandhi 

Before I conclude this chapter on the Ministers’ 
difficulties I may record that I had the temerity to 


252 


NEW MINISTERS' DIFFICULTIES 

write to Mr. Churchill early in 1937 and say that I was 
disappointed with his utterances in the Press about the 
political situation in India, reminding him that I had told 
him that the personal touch between the representatives of 
the Congress and the former Government had been lack¬ 
ing and the spirit of mutual distrust prevailed. I told him 
that during the Elections in some provinces the highest 
officials openly sided against the Congress, and that it 
was in this atmosphere that the Congress was now 
approaching the new Constitution. I went on to 
say:— 

Let me assure you that Mr. Gandhi and others of his way 
of thinking honestly wish to work the Constitution for the good of 
the people. I conveyed your words to Mr. Gandhi, ‘I will be 
entirely satisfied if you can give more bread and butter to your 
people. Not more loyalty to Great Britain. I am always for 
more bread and butter.’ The Election Manifesto of the Congress 
was prepared with a view to giving more ‘bread and butter’. And 
the Congress, in asking for certain assurances, rightly or wrongly 
felt that there would be interference from the Governors in carry¬ 
ing out their programme. You may criticise this suspicion, or, 
as Lord Lothian says, it may be due to lack of experience of 
democracy, but all the same it is there. And I also feel that 
with statesmanship and the personal touch, this misunderstanding 
could be removed. 

Don’t you think that an eminent statesman like you could 
be of great help in solving the problem ? 

I quoted from memory and it may also be that at 
the time I misunderstood Mr. Churchill, and that he 
did not say ‘not more loyalty’, but ‘and more loyalty’ 
or ‘with more loyalty’. Anyhow, Mr. Churchill was 
not prepared to admit that he had said that he did not 
look for more loyalty to the British from India. Here 
is his reply which, though marked ‘Private’ at the time, 
he has been kind enough to give me permission to 
publish :— 


253 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


Private. 11, Morpeth Mansions, 

Westminster, S. W. 1. 

30th April, 1937. 

Dear Mr. Birla, 

Many thanks for your letter. I shall always be interested to 
hear from you. But you have not quoted me correctly in the 
sentence you mention. I certainly did not say the words you use. 

You should seriously consider the present state of the world. 
If Great Britain were persuaded or forced for any cause, Indian 
or European, to withdraw her protection from India, it would 
continuously become the prey of Fascist dictator nations, Italy, 
Germany or Japan and then indeed with the modern facilities 
there would be a severity of government even worse than any 
experienced in bygone ages. The duty of the Indian electorate 
and of Congress is to take up the great task which has been 
offered them, and show that they can make India a happier 
country ; and at the same time do everything they can to win 
the confidence of Great Britain, and offer to her gratitude and 
loyalty for being the guardian of Parliamentary government and 
Indian peace. 

Yours sincerely, 
Winston Churchill 




254 


CHAPTER XXIII 


WARTIME EPISODES 

The blunder made by Lord Linlithgow in not even 
going through the motions of appearing to consult the 
Legislature, or Indian public opinion, before declaring 
India a belligerent seemed irretrievable. Not only did 
the Congress Ministers resign during the first autumn 
of the war, but whereas the gallant Indian Army, of 
which we are so justly proud today, quickly dis¬ 
tinguished itself and accumulated V.C.s and other 
honours even more quickly than the British Army, the 
public found no joy in these things and were apathetic 
if not openly hostile. Many no doubt even developed 
a kind of sympathy with the Nazis. For Japan there 
was sympathy in almost every quarter without wishing 
her to win—a queer thing indeed ! 

However, the Viceroy remained for the present in 
touch with Gandhiji, and much correspondence con¬ 
tinued to pass between them. A letter from Mahadev 
to me illustrates their peculiar relationship at this 
time:— 

Sevagram, 25-6-42. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Thanks to Swamiji* who is coming to you, I can write you 
a real letter. For it is impossible to send anything nowadays by 
post, as you can well imagine. ' 

Fischer—the writer of Men and Politics which you are read¬ 
ing, was here for four or five days. . . On the day Fischer left 
he let me see his own diary—that is just a part of it containing 
the gist of the Viceroy’s talk with him regarding Bapu. It was 
most interesting and not a little strange. ‘Gandhi has been very 
good to me all these years,’ he said to Fischer. ‘And that is to 
say a good deal. If he had remained the saint that he was in 

* Anand Swami. 


255 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

» 

South Africa he would have done a lot of good to humanity. 
But unfortunately politics absorbed him here and have made 
him vain and egoistical. But it is nonsense to say, as you say 
some civilians have told you, that he is a spent force and mav 
be ignored. He has a tremendous influence, sways the masses 
as no one else does and only next to him comes Jawaharlal. 
The rest in the Congress are all paid for their work. It is a 
businessmen’s organisation. They finance it and keep it going. 
Gandhi’s present move is enigmatic. It may be dangerous. I 
am watching it most closely. He is planning to instigate the 
people in the U.P. and Bengal. He will ask the peasants not 
to move from their homesteads. I am not going to be precipi¬ 
tate, but if his activities affect the war effort, I shall have to 
put him under control.’ This is as good a report of the thing 
as my memory can give me. 

Bapu had long talks with Jawahar and the Moulana. 
Jawahar is full of China and America. When Bapu altered his 
original stand in his interview given to Fischer, Bapu no doubt 
had Jawahar in mind. That interview fully met J’s wishes, who 
suggested that Bapu must write a letter to Chiang explaining his 
position and assuring him of the help of Free India, also that 
the withdrawal proposal was entirely with a view to helping 
China. I do not quite know why Chiang wired against publica¬ 
tion of the letter in Harijan. But the letter was wired to China 
and America at the time and in a way it was good that it must 
have been in Roosevelt’s hands when Churchill met him. 

* * * * 

Rajaji was here for a couple of days, but at the end of two 
days’ long and very friendly talks Bapu said, T find that the 
differences between him and me are deeper than I had imagined.’ 
He, Bapu, urged him on to see Jinnah—I think he really needed 
no urging—and he will see him. But that man having given that 
vile interview to the Times of India man is now committed to 
oppose Bapu tooth and nail, and I don’t think C.R. will be able 
to cut much ice with him. However, he is seeing him and will 
return to Wardha after that visit to communicate the result. But 
I have a fear that he will not tell even Bapu all that passes 
between him and Jinnah, not that he would deliberately keep 
anything from him, but because he sees everything through the 


256 


WARTIME EPISODES 


spectacles of his own pet plan and anything that upsets his apple¬ 
cart he would hesitate to reveal. However, it is, I think, well that 
he is seeing linnah. 

I think I have now given you all the news worth giving. 
Bapu is not at all well. He is dead tired, and at the end of 
the day feels quite washed out. We have to make a desperate 
attempt to lessen his labours, but it is the new programme of 
which the thinking out takes a lot out of him. This is greatly 
to be deplored, but we cannot help him very materially. All I 
can do is to limit him to a couple of columns of Harijan and 
fill the rest myself, which I can easily do as I can write exposi¬ 
tions of his views without much difficulty. But the thinking and 
planning he has to do himself ! Only God can do it for him. 

Horace Alexander and Symonds have come here. They 
are goody-goody fellows like all Quakers. Horace saw Amery 
before he left London. A. said H. might meet Gandhi and 
others. But there will be no result, I am afraid, as he is hold¬ 
ing a brief for Cripps. However, they are both good people. 
I am asking them to stay with you. I hope you will have no 
objection. You can educate Horace a little, I think, for he 
knew very little, and you can find out something from him. He 
knows no one there and I thought much the best plan would 
be for them to stay with you. That will interfere with your 
plans somewhat but I hope you will not mind. 

Love, 

Yours, 

Mahadev 

In England the Quakers and other well-meaning 
people, such as the members of Carl Heath’s Concilia¬ 
tion Committee, vainly attempted to find a way out and 
sent a deputation to India to look at the scene. Maha¬ 
dev wrote for Bapu from Wardha, asking me to put 
them up, which I gladly did:— 

27 th June, 1942. 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

Your letter was full of information and I am thankful to 
you for sending me this mental food. 

Mr. Horace and Mr. Symonds have both arrived here and 
I have put them both in one room. I wish I could have given 


17 


257 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

them two rooms, but that was not possible. But they are quite 
happy. I will look after their comfort. Please don’t have any 
worry over their stay in Delhi. 

There are a number of things to talk about, but I shall 
wait until we meet. I shall be there perhaps by the beginning 
of August. 

I understand you are not well. You yourself have admitted 
that in the Harijan. Why not then come to Delhi ? If you 
come, I promise to alter my programme and will stay here to 
keep you company. Or, I can take you to Pilani where nothing 
will disturb you. Even for the sake of work, it is/ necessary 
that you should take a rest and not have these collapses. It 
must be hateful to you that Bapu could walk a mile in gruel¬ 
ling heat, while you could not perform the feat. I think you 
definitely need a rest and you ought to take it. Devadas agrees 
with me. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

The War brought many difficulties and preoccupa¬ 
tions for Gandhiji and indeed for all Indians. The in¬ 
creasing shrillness of Jinnah’s demand for Pakistan was 
an additional difficulty and on top of this came the 
tragedy of the Bengal Famine. Mr. Nehru’s sympathy 
was roused by China’s stand against the Japanese and 
this brought him into contact with the Generalissimo, 
Chiang Kai-shek, and his equally prominent wife. 
They reciprocated by showing sympathy with Jawahar- 
lalji’s passion for India’s freedom, and even came to 
India to plead for it with Lord Linlithgow, whose guests 
they were. Bapu met them at my house in Calcutta 
and was duly photographed with them. But a letter 
which Mahadev sent me discloses another picture:— 

Sevagram, 16-7-42. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

I wanted to send you a letter through Mira Ben but I was 
too tired and had no time in the morning to send a satisfac¬ 
tory letter. The Working Committee was this time an eye- 
opener. With the exception of the Khan Saheb the Muslims 


258 



WARTIME EPISODES 


have no heart in the Congress programme, or rather Bapu’s pro¬ 
gramme. My fear is that the real situation is even worse. 
Rameshwarbhai sends me Life every week. This week’s issue 
is a frightful revelation of things as they are. Bapu met 
the Generalissimo at your house in Calcutta. This Life con¬ 
tains all the photographs of the occasion. The description 
under the photographs could have been given by none but 
Madame, or someone on the Generalissimo’s staff, for there 
was no one there but they and myself who could give this 
description. And then what a mischievous description of 
Bapu? And how insulting and how ungrateful? I had thought 
gratefulness was one of the greatest virtues of the Chinese. 
But even that seems woefully lacking so far as this couple is 
concerned. If they were so keen on having nothing to do with 
capitalists why should they have accepted poor Laxminivas’ 
hospitality ? The whole thing leaves a most unpleasant taste in 
the mouth. The visit ought not to have taken place. But it is 
well that Bapu was face to face with that ‘inscrutable’ man, as 
he always calls him. In his latest message the Generalissimo 
tells Bapu to do nothing precipitate, as Halifax, who has gone to 
Britain, told Chiang’s representative in New York that he would 
move those in authority in England to bring about an under¬ 
standing with India. Bapu has written to him in reply that he 
would take no hasty step, but neither can the step be long 
delayed, because the delay would defeat the very purpose of the 
step. I am afraid there is nothing behind this message, and 
Halifax is either fooling Chiang, or Chiang and Halifax are both 
fooling us ! 

Re your letter about price control, Bapu says you must 
make a move—you, that is, the merchants. If Nalini does some¬ 
thing concrete and associates you with it, it would be a very 
good thing. Do have long talks with Mira Ben. She is full of 
spirit. I wish she were equally full of knowledge. But no harm 
can come out of her talks with the Big Three—if she gets an 
interview. Have a talk with me on receipt of this letter. 

Yours, 

Mahadev 

I had some talks with the late Liaquat Ali Khan 
in a vain endeavour to patch up differences between 
Bapu and Jinnah and, of course, kept Bapu fully inform- 


259 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


ed of these talks and made no commitments on his behalf. 
It all came to nothing, and as it is idle to cry over spilt 
milk, it is useless to dilate on it here. 

The situation, which according to Fischer—as 
reported by Mahadev—Lord Linlithgow had foreseen, 
arose. Gandhiji launched a campaign of individual 
civil disobedience. He himself was interned in the Aga 
Khan’s Palace, Poona, and one by one a succession of 
Congress dictators were arrested and followed him 
there. 

The war went on its weary way. For us Indians 
hoping for freedom, there were only rare breaks in the 
news. Gandhiji’s 21-day fast, during which the Govern¬ 
ment refused all petitions for his release, and which he 
nevertheless carried to a successful conclusion, profound¬ 
ly stirred the country. 


260 



CHAPTER XXIV 
INDIA IN THE WAR 

Concerning the reasons given for Bapu’s arrest on 
August 8, 1942, and about the outbreak of violence 
which followed, and led to sabotage of the war effort and 
the ignominious collapse of Lord WavelFs attempt to 
carry the war into Japanese-occupied Burma, there are 
certain facts which future historians should note care¬ 
fully. 

One fact is certain, that in time of war, Lord Linlith¬ 
gow, without consulting his military advisers, and appa¬ 
rently entirely on his own responsibility, took a grave 
decision—which was bound to affect the course of the 
war. Lord Waved, the Commander-in-Chief, was at 
that moment absent from India, and subsequently decla¬ 
red that he knew nothing about it. The arrests were 
made before dawn on Sunday, August 8. Riots broke 
out in Bombay during the day. That evening the General 
holding the Eastern Command at Ranchi met the Editor 
of the Statesman at dinner in Calcutta. He knew nothing 
either of the arrests or of the riots, nor did the General 
commanding the Presidency Division in Calcutta, who 
was also present and was vitally concerned. Arthur 
Moore, the Editor, has recorded publicly their astonish¬ 
ment on learning the news from him. 

The second fact which is beyond question is that 
Gandhiji’s arrest cannot be justified by any allegation 
that he or the Congress were meditating any resort to 
violence. Here are the recorded answers to questions put 
to him while he was interned:— 

Question : How do you reconcile your faith in non-violence 
with the allegations made against you and the Congress that 
all these acts of sabotage and violence that.took place after the 


261 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

8th of August so happened because of some secret instructions 
issued by you or by the Congress ? 

Answer: There is absolutely no truth in it. I never 
issued any secret or overt instructions in favour of sabotage or 
any other kind of violence. Had the Congress issued such 
instructions, I would have known it. No such instructions were 
issued either by me or by the Congress. 

Question: Do you then disapprove of these acts of sabo¬ 
tage and violence ? 

Answer: I definitely disapprove of them. I have made 
it clear to all those friends who have met me during the period 
of my fast. I do not want to judge anyone who believes in 
violence. But then I would ask them to declare unequivocally 
that they are committing these acts of violence on their own 
behalf and because of their belief in violence. It is but fair to 
the Congress that these perpetrators of violence and sabotage 
should make this absolutely clear. If they would listen to my 
advice, I would suggest that they should surrender themselves to 
the police. Only in this way would they help the cause of the 
country. But if one does not believe in the Congress creed and 
my method, one should make it clear to all concerned. 

Question: It has been suggested that you started this 
movement under the notion that the Allies were going to be 
defeated and that you synchronized the movement with the time 
when the Allied Nations were in difficulties; and that you wanted 
to take undue advantage of their position. 

Answer: There is absolutely no truth in it. You can read 
my writings in the Harijan and I have made it more than clear 
that this was not my intention. 

Question : Yes, I have read your articles in the Harijan 
and what I gathered therefrom was that you are not only not 
pro-German or pro-Japan, but you are anti-Nazi and anti- 
Fascist. Am I right? 

Answer: Definitely. No one has used stronger words 
than myself about Nazism and Fascism. I have called the Nazis 
and Fascists the scum of the earth. I wrote a letter sometime 
in May 1942 to Mira Ben while she was in Orissa. I cannot 
give you a copy of that letter since I am in jail. I understand 
Mira Ben has sent a copy of that letter to the Government. You can 
ask the Government to supply you with a copy of it and satisfy 


262 


INDIA IN THE WAR 


yourself. I have given in that letter complete instructions as to 
how to resist the Japanese if they invade India at all. No one 
after reading that letter could charge me with any sympathy 
with Nazism or Fascism or with Japan. 

Question: Is it not the position that Congress had pledged 
itself to give military help for the Allied cause in case of India 
being free, and a National Government being established ? 

Answer: You are absolutely correct in drawing the con¬ 
clusion that you have drawn. The National Government will, 
no doubt, in case of India being made free, fight for the Allies’ 
cause with all the military resources at its disposal and will co¬ 
operate with the Allied Nations in every possible manner. 

Question : Yes, this; is the policy of the Congress. But 
you being a pacifist, would you obstruct the Congress plan to 
give military help to the Allied Nations ? 

Answer: Certainly not. I am a pacifist. But if the 
National Government is formed and takes power on the basis 
of giving military help to the Allied Nations, I obviously cannot 
obstruct and will not obstruct. I cannot directly participate in 
any act of violence. But Congress is not pacifist in the same 
manner as I am. And I naturally would not do anything to 
obstruct the execution of the Congress intention. 

Bapu’s decision, when he was interned in the Aga 
Khan’s house at Poona, to undergo a 21-day fast unless 
the Viceroy and the Government exonerated him and 
the Congress from any responsibility for the rebellion 
and acts of sabotage that had followed from his arrest, 
thoroughly frightened his friends. He was now well 
advanced in age and the possibility that the Govern¬ 
ment might not release him and might let him carry 
out his intention, filled us with alarm. Mr. K. M. 
Munshi, the present Governor of Uttar Pradesh (for¬ 
merly the United Provinces), and I immediately decided 
to summon as representative a conference as possible 
in the hope of moving the Government to release him. 
Accordingly, on the 11th February 1943, we sent joint 
wires to Mr. Rajagopalachariar and Sir Tej Bahadur 
Sapru, asking them to attend and sponsor a conference 


263 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


at once. This they duly did and as there was no room 
for a conference of such size in my house in Delhi, we 
held it in a marquee in the compound of the Federation 
of Indian Chambers of Commerce. Hindus, Moslems, 
Sikhs, Parsis and Englishmen were well represented. 
We all avoided constitutional and political issues and, 
in the resolutions passed, we concentrated on making 
our appeal on purely humanitarian grounds. But we 
did not succeed in melting the heart of the Government. 
Looking back, one cannot but be amazed at the risk 
the Government took. Had Gandhiji died, the whole 
country would have been ablaze. Instead of helping the 
war effort, they would themselves prove its saboteurs. 
It was indeed fortunate for them that Gandhiji survived 
and carried his fast to a successful conclusion. Admit¬ 
tedly their position was difficult. They could not be 
expected to profess to exonerate the Congress, when in 
fact they did believe it responsible. But an honest com¬ 
promise was easily open to them. They could have 
announced that, without prejudice to any other issue, 
they would release Mr. Gandhi, on the purely humani¬ 
tarian grounds on which we appealed to them. They 
knew well enough that whether or not Bapu over-esti¬ 
mated the extent to which he had converted his suppos¬ 
ed followers, he himself detested violence and therefore 
they could, at most, attribute to him only some indirect 
responsibility. They had previously freely admitted 
that he had rendered great service in maintaining a 
peaceful atmosphere. 

Bapu’s faithful private secretary, Mahadev, died 
during his internment. Pyarelal who, with his sister, 
Dr. Sushila, had long been attached to Gandhiji, filled 
his place. 

When Bapu was released and I was free to corres¬ 
pond again, I was soon in correspondence with Pyarelal, 
because I did not wish to intrude on Bapu’s time. 


264 


INDIA IN THE WAR 


although I was anxious on account of his health and 
keen on receiving some guidance from him. 

‘Dilkusha’, Panchgani, 31-7-44. 

Dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Bapu asked me to arrange to get regularly some foreign 
periodicals. I sent the following list to Shri Sliantikumar : 

1. New Statesman and Nation 

2. Time (American) 

3. Reader’s Digest 

4. Manchester Guardian (Weekly) 

5. The Times (Weekly) 

6. Unity 

7. Asia 

\ 

He has written to say that he tried but failed. Could you 
take it upon yourself to get them for me ? 

Yours sincerely, 
Pyarelal 

7th August, 1944. 

My dear Pyarelal, 

I have received your letter of the 31st. There will be no 
difficulty in getting the papers that you have asked for. You 
will get them direct. I will cable today to my offices in London 
and New York to see to this. Please let me know when you 
begin to get them. 

If there is anything worth writing to me please keep me 
well posted just as Mahadevbhai used to do. You can often 
‘think aloud’ to me in your letters. 

I am not going to Bombay just now. But please tell Bapu 
that whenever he needs me whether in Sevagram or at any other 
place, I will be at his disposal. I am not writing to him because 
he has enough to do. So I do not want to make his post un¬ 
necessarily heavy. As regards his health I hope the hookworms 
have now disappeared for good. 

Yours sincerely, 

G. D. Birla 

After Bapu was released from the Aga Khan’s 
Palace he was not feeling at all happy. His co-workers 
and colleagues were still in jail and he had been sepa- 

\ 


265 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

rated, first from Mahadev and then from Ba, in the 
Palace. He felt that either his co-workers should be 
released or that he should return to jail. At this stage 
some unkind ‘friends’ who had never concealed their 
jealousy of Bapu’s association with my family, raised 
objections to his putting up at Birla House in Bombay 
or in Delhi whenever he came to these cities. When 
he heard this Bapu flatly refused to abandon Birla 
House where he had been accustomed to stay on and off 
for many years. These so-called friends then tried to 
dissuade him from staying with us on the plea that, since 
he was likely to be arrested again, it would not be fair 
on his part to associate himself too closely with my 
family, and that as he had previously been arrested at 
Birla House this fact might jeopardise my family’s own 
security. 

When Bapu broached this subject to me at Poona 
I was simply amazed. I told him very frankly that 
whatever the risk might be, since I had been associated 
with him for over twenty-eight years, I could not for 
one moment think of shirking my responsibility by try¬ 
ing to avoid any risk that my association with him might 
involve ; but Bapu insisted on writing the following letter 
to my brother Rameshwardas, who was in Bombay. 
Rameshwardas’s reply showed, of course, the same atti¬ 
tude as I did. 

Sevagram, Wardha, C.P., 
12-8-44. 

Brother Rameshwardas, 

I have been thinking of writing to you for a considerable 
time. But I could not snatch time to do so. Now I must write. 
Mr. Jinnah’s letter may be here any time. I have written asking 
for three or four days’ respite. I am being pressed a great deal 
not to put up at Birla House. I have said plainly that I would 
not abandon Birla House without any reason. The occasion for 
writing this is that if, by any chance, my putting up there is not 
considered proper, I should be told so without any hesitation. 
This question arose at Poona also and it was decided that there 


266 


INDIA IN THE WAR 


should be no question of any hesitation on your part. I do not 
remember if you were there at that time. The talk was held 
with Ghanshyamdas. But now that the time of my visit to 
Bombay is drawing near, I thought it my duty to ask you as a 
precautionary measure. 

There is one other thing which is comparatively more impor¬ 
tant, though from the view-point of time it is not so important 
as the question of my stay in Bombay. Now that I am going 
to be arrested, I should feel content if I could finalise what I 
should have carried on long ago. It is my belief that the work 
of Talimi Sangha is going on well. Rs. 50,000/- should be pro¬ 
vided for it. 

I want to return the money received as donation for Mira 
Ben. It is now a duty to return that money. This weight 
should be borne by the Satyagraha Ashram Fund. Though the 
amount involved is small, still Narayan Das held it up for con¬ 
structive work. I can take away that amount, but we can do so 
only by injuring that work and I do not want to do that if possible. 
This may amount to nearly Rs. 50,000/-. I have not been able 
to find out the actual amount to be paid. The moneys received 
for the last so many years continue to be entered among the dona¬ 
tions and it takes time to locate the exact amount. All the 
account books of the Ashram are lying at different places. Ordi¬ 
narily it is as difficult to take out such items from well-preserved 
accounts as it is to trace a needle which has fallen in a heap of 
grass. Still I have given directions that the account be prepared. 

There are also miscellaneous expenses and it is imperative 
to do something about this matter. This will also swallow some¬ 
thing like Rs. 50,000/-. I have not prepared an accurate account. 

Can you give all these amounts with ease ? You can even 
reply in the negative without any hesitation. All my undertakings 
depend upon God. If God does not want to hinder any particu¬ 
lar undertaking, he sends his draft through somebody. There¬ 
fore, if I don’t get the amount, I will get angry neither with God 
nor with you. I have never struck the branch of the tree under 
which I have taken shelter, and God willing, I am not going to 
do that in my lifetime. 

I hope you are all doing well. I am sending this through 
Jagdish. He was here with brother Munshi’s letter. Nowadays 


267 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

it is getting difficult to decide what should be sent by post and 
what should not. 

With Bapu’s Blessings. 

His next letter came shortly before Bapu’s infruo 
tuous meeting with Jinnah, who proved quite intractable. 

The violent opposition displayed against Bapu’s 
project of meeting Jinnah, and the personal hostility to 
Bapu himself, gave grim foreboding of the death he was 
eventually to die at the hands of fanatical Hindus:— 

Bombay, 9th September, 1944. 

Dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

You must have seen in the papers reports of the doings of 
the picketers at Sevagram. For some time it was pure fun so 
far as we w ? ere concerned, though on the first day the leader had 
blurted out that this was only the first step and, if necessary, force 
would be employed to prevent Bapu from going to meet Q.A.*. 
Yesterday they gave intimation that they would physically pre¬ 
vent Gandhiji from going out of the hut and planted pickets at 
all the three exists leading out of the hut. 

This morning 1 had intimation on the telephone from the 
D.S.P. that they intended serious mischief and, therefore, the 
Police will be compelled to take action. Bapu had proposed to 
be all alone in their midst and go on foot to Wardha, unless they 
themselves changed their mind and asked him to get into the 
car. The time for departure was fixed at noon to allow for the 
delay. Just before departure the D.S.P. came and said that he 
had arrested the picketers after giving them due notice and after 
all persuasion had failed. Perhaps you know that all demonstra¬ 
tions, processions etc. are banned in Wardha District at present. 

The leader of the picketers appeared to be very highly strung,, 
fanatical and of a neurotic type which caused some anxiety. 
Searching of his person after arrest revealed a full-sized dagger. 

When the Police Officer who arrested him banteringly 
remarked that at any rate he had the satisfaction of becoming 
a martyr, quick came the reply, ‘No, that will be when someone 
assassinates Gandhiji.’ ‘Why not leave it to leaders to settle 
it among themselves; for instance, Savarkar might come and do 

* Mr. Jinnah, the Qaid-i-Azam. 


268 


INDIA IN THE WAR 


the job,’ jocularly remarked the Police Officer in question. The 
reply was, 'That will be too great an honour for Gandhiji. A 
jamadar will be quite enough for the purpose.’ 

Bapu has been having serious discussions with the Ashram 
people. He has advised the dissolution of the Ashram unless it 
is so organised as to be able to acquit itself with credit in the 
hour of test. The case of the present failure in Bapu’s opinion 
is the disturbing element of his presence. Therefore, in case of 
re-organisation being decided upon he would remove himself from 
the Ashram and shift either to Birla House (Sevagram) or to 
Wardha. You must have seen also the drastic re-orientation he 
has recommended to A.I.S.A. I would like you to go carefully 
through the gist of his remarks which I have sent to 'the Press. 
Since then, however, some new developments have taken place and 
it is difficult to predict the shape of things to come. 

Yours sincerely, 
Pyarelal 

This so disturbed me that I sent an express telegram 
in reply:— 

ADVISE PASSING ON TRUE FACTS ABOUT SEVAGRAM PICKETERS 
TO PRESS. ESSENTIAL PUBLIC SHOULD KNOW. 

Ghanshyamdas (13-9-44) 

But Bapu would not permit this:— 

Birla House, Mount Pleasant Road, 
Bombay, September 16th, 1944. 

Dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

I had your wire. Bapu says that the most relevant facts in 
the episode—facts that matter—cannot be published at this stage 
as the case is, technically speaking, sub judice. 

I use the word ‘technically’ advisedly as according to the 
D.S.P., who saw me at Wardha, the idea seems to be to keep the 
picketers in detention till Bapu’s return to Sevagram, so that 
there may be no further nuisance to be tackled on his return. 

The talks are running their even course. From twice a day 
they had to be reduced to once a day only, and that too during 
the evening, as the mornings had to be set apart for Dr. Dinshaw, 
who is attending on the Qaid-i-Azam. 


269 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

I had both your wires. I have already explained the matter 
to Rameshwarji, who will speak to you on the phone. 

Yours sincerely, 
Pyarelal 

PS.—Since the above was written Bapu has seen both your wires. 
His reply is being telegraphed to you. It is as follows: ‘My 
definite wish you should go Mussoorie. You will shorten stay 
there if I want you.’ 

Pyarelal wrote in a prophetic strain on the 6th 
December, 1944:— 

Bapu expects to be able to resume normal work at the end 
of the month. Let us hope so. But I am of the opinion that 
there should be a radical change in the scope and nature of his 
activity hereafter. His work should no longer be that of an 
engine driver but of a pointsman only. He should give forth 
ideas and radiate moral and spiritual influence. It is my firm 
faith that his guidance will be needed on some future occasion 
more than we can imagine today. The best is yet to be. He 
owes it to himself and the world to conserve himself in the best 
way possible. 

Rajaji is leaving today. I wish there was someone like 
him to take his place by Bapu’s side. In spite of all the detach¬ 
ment that Bapu has cultivated he is very human, and the pre¬ 
sence near him of someone from among his Old Guard cannot 
be over-estimated. 

There is something frightening in his utter spiritual isolation. 
In a measure it is inseparable from greatness. But surely some¬ 
thing could be done to mitigate it. 


270 



CHAPTER XXV 
FRIENDS OF INDIA 

It is worth while, in what aims at being a small contribu¬ 
tion to India’s modern history, to single out the names of 
some foreigners who strove for, and contributed to, her in¬ 
dependence. There were many sympathisers in America 
and elsewhere, but their efforts were not very effective 
and inevitably Britain could do more. World opinion, 
if it can swell into volumes, can no doubt be influen¬ 
tial, but attempts at intervention only stiffened British 
resistance. An example of the latter is Ambassador 
Philips’ well-meant American intervention on our be¬ 
half which, despite the close partnership of President 
Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill, seems only to have hard¬ 
ened the latter’s opposition. 

Our British friends divide into two categories, those 
in Britain and those in India. Friends in Britain again 
subdivide. Some were chiefly animated by an honour¬ 
able sense of duty, and a realisation that they must 
move with the times. Whatever the die-hard views of 
individuals might be, there was no doubt that ever since 
Macaulay’s day the declared policy of the British Parlia¬ 
ment and the accepted national programme of the 
British people as a whole—who, as Lord Halifax once 
said, can really conceive of no other—was that Indians 
should progressively learn to govern themselves and to do 
so as soon as they could. Such were the motives that 
animated Sir Samuel Hoare and most of his Conserva¬ 
tive colleagues, who carried through the Government of 
India Act with the help of Mr. Attlee and the Opposi¬ 
tion, and against the wishes of many of their own party. 

But there were also men in governing circles who 
were moved not only by their sense of honour and duty 
but by religious beliefs and a love of mankind which in- 


271 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


stilled in them a deep sympathy with India and made 
them look forward with joy to our future independence. 

_ Of these the chief were Lord Halifax, a Conservative 
Viceroy and Cabinet Minister, and Lord Lothian, from 
the Liberal benches, a former Under-Secretary of State 
for India and a Minister in Coalition Governments. 
Real friendship sprang up between Bapu and these two 
men. But keen though he was in general on personal 
contact, he did not ‘enthuse’ when I reported my con¬ 
versation with Mr. Churchill in which, at my instiga¬ 
tion, the latter had discussed the possibility of his visit¬ 
ing India. Bapu made it clear to me that, as far as he 
was concerned, no invitation or encouragement would be 
forthcoming. Lord Lothian, he said, was a very dif¬ 
ferent matter, and he looked forward eagerly to his 
visit. The visit was a great success and gave us much 
pleasure. Not only was he my guest in Delhi and else- 
where ; he went to Wardha and as Bapu’s guest shared 
the austerities of the Sevagram Ashram. 

There were other friends, notably the Quakers, 
whose religious feelings made them sympathise with 
Bapu’s non-violent creed. In India they had their 
counterpart in missionaries, most of whom, whether 
British or American, sympathised openly with the 
National Movement. An exception may perhaps be 
made in the case of the Catholic Jesuits, mostly from 
Latin countries, who refrained from any political expres¬ 
sion, whatever their private views may have been. 

British Labour M.P.s in general and the Trade 
Unions declared their sympathies, and to Mr. Attlee* 
formerly a member of the much-attacked Simon Com- 
mission, fell the honour of carrying through Britain’s 
pledges when the War was over. Of the rank and file, 
the Rev. Mr. Sorensen and Mr. Fenner Brockway were 
prominent and made up in assiduity what they some¬ 
times lacked in information. 


272 


FRIENDS OF INDIA 

Opposition naturally came from those who had a 
vested interest in British ascendancy. These were in 
England the large trading houses that had made fortunes 
through the colonial trade. India was a vast market 
for manufactures of all kinds, from needles to anchors, 
and sometimes the raw materials for these came chiefly 
from India itself. Thus cotton from India went in 
British ships to Lancashire and came back in the form 
of piece-goods to a limitless market in India. There 
were also numerous families in the upper and middle 
classes, the heads of which had served in India in the 
Army, or the Civil Service, or in some other capacity, 
where they had enjoyed a pleasant life, saved some 
money and retired on good pensions to Cheltenham, 
Camberley and Bedford. These regarded India as more 
or less a preserve for their sons. 

In India they had their counterparts. The Indian 
Civil Service, although it loyally carried out orders from 
England, and honestly sought to promote the growth of 
parliamentary institutions in India, contained many 
members who made no secret of their private lack of 
faith or their downright disapproval. They regarded 
themselves as a necessary 'steel frame’, and they disbe¬ 
lieved in our ability to govern ourselves because they 
found it pleasant to govern us. An honourable excep¬ 
tion may be made for the Indian Army and Navy, which 
eschewed politics ; and in these services there was real 
comradeship between officers and men, since in the war 
the lives of both were equally at stake and they depended 
on each other. 

In business circles, vested interests followed the 
same pattern. Banking, shipping and insurance were 
regarded as British perquisites. Canny Scots, who 
monopolised the jute trade at both ends, from Bengal 
fields and Hooghly mills to Dundee, prospered enor¬ 
mously and looked forward to their children following 
in their footsteps. Great managing agency firms grew 

273 

18 


s. 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

up in the big cities, and had ramifications all over India. 
By and large all these people were powerful opponents 
and appeared determined ‘die-hards’, though in the end 
- they collapsed as gracefully as they could when the 
British Government sent Lord Mountbatten to be the 
last Viceroy and made clear their future intentions. 
Their capacity for adapting themselves to a new situa¬ 
tion was quickly demonstrated. 

Yet even in these interested circles there have 
always been notable exceptions. In England, for ex¬ 
ample, I found in Lord Derby, from whom on terri¬ 
torial grounds Lancashire may have expected more 
biased partisanship, a fair-minded man, devoid of pre¬ 
judice, and totally without conceit. In India we do not 
forget that the Congress was founded by Britons, chief 
of whom was a Scottish businessman in Calcutta, the 
first Andrew Yule. Sir Henry Cotton, of the Indian 
Civil Service, was another notable friend in those days. 
In journalism in the nineteenth century Robert Knight 
who founded first the Times of India and then the 
Statesman , was a stout champion. 

No doubt there were many other sympathisers, 
known or unknown. When Bapu pulled us up, in¬ 
creased our self-respect, and prepared us to stand on our 
own legs, their numbers greatly increased. The mild¬ 
ness of what Mr. Lloyd George called ‘the mild Hindu’ 
had become a byword. When they discovered that this 
mildness had a limit, the British respected us more. 


274 


CHAPTER XXVI 
DEADLOCK 

Deadlock arose when the Congress Ministers resigned 
in the first autumn of the war. This, however, pro¬ 
duced no immediate break in the relations between the 
Viceroy and the national leader. They corresponded 
amicably and met at intervals in a sincere attempt to 
arrive at some agreement. Yet there were deeply 
engrained suspicions on both sides. Suspicion breeds 
suspicion, and which side began it is not a point to be 
easily decided. It did not originate in the British Par¬ 
liament or Britons outside India, but it had a long his¬ 
tory amongst Britons in India. They were always on 
the alert to defend their privileged position, and though 
ostensibly as businessmen they made a parade of leav¬ 
ing politics alone—even when they became members of 
the Legislatures they avoided taking sides on large con¬ 
troversial interests—our numbers were to them some¬ 
thing of a nightmare. They saw themselves as a hand¬ 
ful of men who, by some hypnotic miracle, lived luxuri¬ 
ously amidst hundreds of millions of people less fortu¬ 
nately placed. Yet such was the rapid growth of 
population amongst the poor that it was clear that these 
hundreds of millions would eventually swell into thou¬ 
sands of millions. It was true that the problem of rais¬ 
ing the standard of life amongst these thousands of mil¬ 
lions was not one that the British had created (except in 
so far as they had produced a peaceful order) nor was 
it one that could be solved merely by their departure. 
But it was an uneasy situation, and from 1857 onwards 
the unofficial British population which seemed generally 
so carefree and, in Indian eyes—then unaccustomed to 
the emergence of women into social life—excessively fri¬ 
volous, was subject to sudden panics. The merest 


275 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


rumour that there was some Indian plot for ‘mutiny’ on 
New Year’s Day or some other date, sent cold shivers 
down their spines. And they had imaginary fears of 
all being murdered in their beds. How long, they asked 
themselves, would the hypnotic miracle last ? 

On the other hand, we Indians—not excluding 
Bapu himself—had become over-suspicious. The great 
majority knew the English only through those whom 
they met or had to deal with in India. These, though 
fair and average specimens of their countrymen, and in 
some cases very fine specimens above the average, were 
over-privileged and consequently really on the defensive. 
Unfortunately, suspicion and intrigue were not uncom¬ 
mon in our country before the British came, when it 
consisted of principalities governed by autocratic rulers. 
It was therefore only natural to the majority to impute 
motives to and harbour suspicions of our new British 
masters. The masses regarded them as autocratic and 
had never heard of democratic institutions. 

Bapu himself was originally a startling exception. 
From childhood, and when he was a young man, he was 
evidently singularly free from all suspicions. He was 
indeed born innately truthful; even those boyish decep¬ 
tions, which he has so conscientiously recorded in his 
autobiography, were paradoxically due to simplicity and 
the belief that comrades who urged him to smoke, drink 
and break rules, spoke the truth when they said there 
was no harm in it. From these influences he was saved 
by his naturally loving disposition. He was devoted to 
his mother and he realised that if he persisted in keeping 
bad company he would break her heart. 

So it was still an unusually frank, innocent and 
unsuspicious young man who went to study law in 
England, returned to practice it in India and went to 
South Africa, also as a lawyer. He was indeed at this 
period an anglophil. He had learnt to like the English 
in their own country and believed that their association 




276 




DEADLOCK 


with India would eventually lead to spreading similar 
democratic institutions in India. Hence his sympathies 
were never in doubt when he was in South Africa during 
the Boer War. And we can believe that even in those 
distant days his inner vision told him that his principal 
opponents in South Africa would prove to be not the 
British but the colonial Dutch, the so-called Afrikanders, 
just as the strongest opposition he had to encounter in 
Britain came from the colonial British. But hope 
deferred makes the heart sick. At every stage the colo¬ 
nial British (always with some honourable exceptions) 
opposed advance towards self-government in India and 
succeeded so well in slowing up the pace of reform that 
even Bapu became, in the end, deeply suspicious. He 
continued his support for Britain in World War I, but a 
turning point followed and thereafter the habit of suspi¬ 
cion pursued him. Yet the occasion of this transforma¬ 
tion, the Rowlatt Act, seems to suggest that during his 
long championship of Indian nationalism he had for¬ 
gotten the characteristic peculiarities of the British, with 
which he had once been intimate. For the Rowlatt Act 
was merely the taking of emergency reserve powers ‘in 
case’. It was never even once enforced and today the 
independent Government of India finds it necessary to 
retain all these powers; and it has even had to use them 
against Communists. 

In his conversation with the Viceroy at this time, 
Bapu strongly objected to the term ‘Dominion Status’. 
His views reveal themselves in what follows. On the 
12th January, 1940, I wrote to Mahadev :— 

I do not know why we seek to create an unnecessary dis¬ 
tinction between Dominion Status and Independence. Even if 
we want to sever our connection, we can do so after we achieve 
Dominion Status of the Westminster Statute type. Why should 
we ask Great Britain to cut us off from them ? If we so 
desire, we can ourselves take the responsibility after we are given 
the freedom to do so. Then if we sever the connection, we will • 


277 


IN THEvSHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

do so with the full consent of the electorate. By asking Great 
Britain to cut us off from the Commonwealth, we are asking 
them to do something which our own electorate should have the 
right to do. In fact, Great Britan can very well say : ‘Why 
should we take the responsibility ? If you so desire, you may 
sever the connection after you have achieved Dominion Status.’ 
And I think it would be quite logical on their part to say so. 

And on the 14th Bapu wrote to the Viceroy:— 

I have read and re-read your Bombay speech. I write this, 
however, to put before you my difficulties. Dominion Status in 
terms of the Statute of Westminster and Independence are taken 
to be equivalent terms. If so, should you not use the term that 
fits India’s case ? 

On the 15th Mahadev wrote to me:— 

I quite see all that you say including the inherent impos¬ 
sibility of England declaring India’s Independence. But Bapu 
does not. However, if everything goes well, and the whole 
thing hangs on this, Bapu would reconsider-—though he firmly 
believes that the Viceroy understands his view-point better than 
anyone else. In fact he says if he (Bapu) were in England he 
could easily get England to use the word Independence instead 
of Dominion Status. 

Sometimes Mahadev found Bapu’s changes of mood 
sorely trying. Occasionally his patience gave out, as 
in his reference to Sevagram as a lunatic asylum :— 

Segaon, via Wardha, C.P., 27 - 1 - 40 . 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Bapu is queer. He believes that the work at Delhi would 
not detain him for more than one or two days—which is pessi¬ 
mism. But, then he also says that the stay might be prolonged 
if others were also called—which is optimism. Then again he 
says that assuming that he would stay till the 10th, a meeting 
of the Harijan Sevak Sangh might be called for the 10th, or it 
might be fixed for the 6th, supposing that he would stay for only 
a couple of days. It would have been better if the 7th or 8th 
were announced. Bapu is taking advantage of the fact that the 
date was not announced. His heart is in the hospital here. 


278 


DEADLOCK 


Gujarati Harijan Bandhu has Bapu’s article ‘To the Gujaratis’. 
Do read it. Segaon is to be renamed Sevagram. A petition has 
been filed for inserting this name in Govermnent records as well. 
The name will, of course, be changed, but it would have been 
better if it were named ‘Lunatic Asylum’. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mahadev 

Bapu sent me a telegram on the same day, reflecting 
his oscillations, and I confess it left me wondering too 
whether I was there or here, or ‘all there’:— 

EITHER HARIJANSEVAK SANGH MEETING HERE AS ANNOUNCED 
OR THERE FROM SIXTH. DON’T EXPECT ME BE THERE AFTER MY 
SPECIAL WORK FINISHED OR CHOOSE DATE AFTER MALIKANDA AT 
WARDHA. BAPU. 

Many were the thorns in the path of peacemakers 
in those days. Another letter from Mahadev suggests that 
Bapu might have gone further in that direction, but for 
his regard for some of his friends:— 

You will be interested to hear that just when you spoke 
to me on the phone about your talk with Zafrulla, I had finished 
an article on Jinnah and placed it before Bapu. I did not tell 
you about it because I had no confidence that Bapu would pass 
it. It has however been passed and gone in [to Harijan\ this 
week ! There is another article which you will also like, but to 
my mind the best part of it was cut out by Bapu, lest it should 
irritate Jawahar. The article is a page from Irish history, and 
having summarised the facts on the constitutional question I had 
quoted Griffith to this effect : ‘We took an oath to the Irish 
Republic, but as President de Valera himself said he understood 
that oath to bind him to do the best he could for Ireland, so do 
we. We have done the best we could for Ireland. If the Irish 
people say : ‘We have got everything else but the name Republic 
and we will fight for it; I would say to them that they are fooR’ 
And I quoted the words with this comment : ‘These words con¬ 
tain a little warning for some of our over-ardent spirits too.’ This 
Bapu scored out. I asked Bapu if he did not agree with Griffith. 
He said he did, but it was not proper to say it! 


279 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

Nothing came of Bapu’s talks with the Viceroy at 
this time. Sir Jagdish Prasad told me that Lord Linlith- 
-gow found him unresponsive. 

8th February , 1940. 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

After Bapu left, I heard from a reliable source that Bapu 
did not leave a friendly impression on the mind of the Viceroy. 
It was felt that Bapu was very stiff, uncompromising and unres¬ 
ponsive. It was expected that Bapu would take the concrete 
things one by one and would try to contribute towards a settlement. 
The Viceroy tried to open discussion on the Army and the Prin¬ 
ces. He wanted Bapu to meet these people and solve the problems 
with the Viceroy’s help. He had expected reciprocation and felt 
disappointed that Bapu ‘did not try to put any plank on the 
gulf that seemed to exist.’ 

The natural conclusion drawn was that Bapu was influenced 
by Leftists and that he was out for a ‘fight’. The Viceroy had 
also expected that Bapu would stay on for more interviews when 
requested to do so, and that he would not be in a hurry to termi¬ 
nate the conversation. And because he was in such an unseemly 
hurry, they thought that he had gone back with rancour and that 
a Civil Disobedience Movement would be the only outcome of 
such a position. 

Bapu was not quite correct in thinking that the Viceroy 
appreciated his position and that there was no misunderstanding. 
The Viceroy did feel disappointed at Bapu’s attitude. Devadas and 
myself both share the feeling of the Viceroy because we also 
feel that Bapu was unresponsive and unhelpful. 

However, when I heard this from Sir Jagdish, I told him to 
disabuse the mind of the Viceroy, and also Laithwaite, that Bapu 
had gone back with any rancour or disappointment or that there 
was Civil Disobedience in the air. Sir Jagdish informed Laith¬ 
waite about this, who asked me to see him. I met Laithwaite this 
morning and the matter is cleared up. 

I told Laithwaite generally about the talk that I had with 
Bapu, and explained to him that Bapu felt that it was not a 
political pact that he was after. He was after a moral conver¬ 
sion. A mere political pact may degenerate into another Rajkot 
Award. 


280 


DEADLOCK 


After my talk, Laithwaite regained his cheerfulness and said 
that with the background that I gave him, he understood the whole 
position and no longer entertained pessimism. He asked me if I 
had any constructive suggestion to make. I frankly confessed 
that I had none. Perhaps you would be able to tell me if some¬ 
thing could be suggested. General ideas are all right, but you 
have to give them a practical shape. And in my opinion the 
time has come, or it will come after the Ramgarh Congress, when 
we should try to give the ideas a concrete shape. If we really 
desire a settlement in the near future, then we have to look upon 
the question from both points of view. Even moral conversion 
is possible only if you appreciate the opponent’s difficulty and 
try to help him. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

But an article from Bapu’s pen stilled my doubts, and 
next day I took back what I had said :— 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

I got the article from Harijan Sevak before it has arrived 
from you direct, and I marvel at Bapu’s way of handling a most 
delicate situation. It is really a wonderful article. I was wrong 
in criticising Bapu in my yesterday’s letter, saying that he refused 
to appreciate his opponent’s difficulty. It appears from this arti¬ 
cle that he has already done so. I fear we are apt to forget at times 
the high moral plane on which Bapu functions. In our zeal for 
freedom, and being conscious of our weakness, we look more to 
the end than to the means, whereas for Bapu, means and the 
end are both one and the same. I will try to rub it into my mind 
that if we look after the means, the end is automatically achieved. 
Looking at it even as a practical man, I have no doubt that the 
formula of Dominion Status without a real change of heart on 
the part of Great Britain is liable to become a thing like Gwyer’s 
Award. I think the heart is already set towards a change. May¬ 
be India and England may enter into a competition, vying with 
each other in manufacturing cordiality and friendship. So it is 
better to have patience and wait. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 


281 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


I unburdened myself in a letter from Calcutta on 
March 8:— 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

I have read the advance copy of Bapu’s article which you 
sent to Bajrang. Bapu has thought too loudly in this article and 
hence one can see the movements of his mind in a magnified form. 
I like it partly because it rules out Civil Disobedience altogether. 
You know I hate Civil Disobedience. In the name of non-violence 
it has encouraged violence. In the name of construction, it has 
destroyed many things. Yet it brought about a wonderful awaken¬ 
ing in the country. But if this psychology continues, any Govern¬ 
ment, even our own, would become an impossibility. We have 
a large number of budding ‘Satyagrahis’. They will all come out 
against our own Government and through terrorism and corrup¬ 
tion make all good government impossible. I admit the sting of 
the Disobedience Movement is taken out immediately it is made 
non-violent. But is that really so ? Bapu insists on non-violence 
in thought, word and deed. But I regret that not even the closest 
co-workers of Bapu have assimilated this spirit. And action is 
only a reflection of thought. Hence my horror at any talk of 
Civil Disobedience. It is partly because of this that I liked this 
article. But again I like the last para of Bapu’s article. I agree 
that Bapu is a misfit in the Congress. He is being exploited be¬ 
cause people know that he alone can lead the country to a success¬ 
ful mass Civil Disobedience Movement. But while people want 
him to help, they never fulfil his programme. There does not 
seem to be any will to do so. The truth perhaps is that nobody 
believes in non-violence. Everybody in political circles wants an 
upheaval and not a non-violent fight. I can say for myself that 
I have got intellectual faith in it. But I don’t think that helps 
much. Bapu could be a better mediator. By identifying him¬ 
self too much with the Congress, he has effaced the distinction 
between himself and the Leftists. Non-violence and violence have 
become, in a way, synonyms. I think this is a most anomalous 
position and I feel disgusted at this position at times. 

If you so desire, you may show my letter to Bapu. Bapu’s 
non-violence has a better chance of success if he is alone. It is a 


282 


DEADLOCK 


mockery that the Congress should try to represent this creed when 
it is not qualified for this. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

Here is the reply:— 

Segaon, via Wardha. (C.P.), 
11-3-40 . 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

Your long letter. I understand and appreciate all that you 
say. I placed it before Bapu who read it but I cannot fathom his 
reaction to it, as he is silent. Assuming that all that you say 
about C.D. is true—and you are perilously near Arthur Moore 
in what you say—do you suggest that violence would be better 
than civil disobedience, however, inadequate? I do not think 
so. Human nature with all its weaknesses must have some 
medium for giving vent to its protest, and if you deprive oppressed 
humanity of even civil disobedience, you deprive it of all it has 
and drive it to abject cowardice. I am putting it very strongly 
but I am expressing my clear conviction. I am sure that we will 
progress from honest error to truth and then from truth to truth. 
I have written a long article for H.T* Congress Number yester¬ 
day. I do not know that Devadas or you will like it, but if Deva- 
das publishes it I want you to see it. 

If Bapu says anything about your letter I shall let you know. 
Will you kindly tell Bajranglalji that I am very thankful for his 
very full letter about Andrews ? I showed it to Bapu and shall 
let you have Bapu’s views on the matter tomorrow. 

Yours affectionately, 
Mahadev 

* Hindustan Times. 

Calcutta, 15th March, 1940. 

My dear Mahadevbhai, 

Why did you interpret my letter as arguing that even violence 
could be better than civil disobedience, however inadequate? 
I agree with you that human nature must have some medium for 
giving vent to its protest and for that purpose civil disobedience, 
even if it be a bit uncivil, is better than violence. Satyagraha 
in its true form is, of course, the display of our desire to protest 


283 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


without fully exploring the avenues of an honourable settlement. 
At times I feel that we are over-emphasising the fighting part of 
_our programme and ignoring settlement through persuasion. We 
have pitched our demands so high that we have made it impossible 
for Englishmen to come to an honourable settlement. That is 
where I complain. There are others even in the Working Com¬ 
mittee who feel like myself. But in the presence of Bapu I, and 
perhaps many others, feel a sort of optimistic confidence which 
I, at any rate, lose immediately I begin to coolly analyse the posi¬ 
tion when no longer in his presence. This I think is succumbing 
to the heart and ignoring the head, although God alone knows 
which is more stupid ! However, doubts about the wisdom of 
our present policy haunt me. We are passing through a critical 
period and so I said to myself that I must again put my doubts 
before Bapu. So I jotted down my thoughts and have sent you a 
copy for whatever it is worth. When I consult my heart, I feel 
that Bapu must win eventually because even though he may com¬ 
mit mistakes, he will commit less mistakes than other human 
beings. God must guide him. But this is talking with faith. 
When I consult my head and do a bit of ‘rational’ thinking, I come 
to no other conclusion than this, that we have not played our 
cards well. 

But you need not waste your time over me. And if you do 
so, you should do so only to educate me. In any case, whatever 
I write, good or bad, please show it to Bapu. Bapu said to 
me many times that I should continue to influence him because 
seemingly I might not succeed but unconsciously he might get 
influenced. And so I am flooding you with all these thoughts. 
They also give me a little peace of mind. 

Yours affectionately, 
Ghanshyamdas 

\ 

Bapu himself wrote two days later:— 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

I have gone through your letter and your note. I share your 
grief. I am quite convinced that it is just at this moment that 
we cannot be satisfied with so much as an iota less. I fail to 
detect any defect in my scheme. On the contrary it is of advan¬ 
tage to them. The fact that they do not agree only shows that 
they do not wish for India’s freedom. The Princes’ attitude has 


284 



DEADLOCK 


been simply intolerable. Who told you I do not wish to meet 
them ? Let them so much as give me a sign and I shall meet 
them. The fact is that they themselves do not want to meet me. 

Bapu’s blessings, 

P.S.—If you so desire I am ready to come down to Calcutta 
for Sevasadan. 


Segaon, via Wardha, C.P., 
17-3-40 . 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

I got all your letters read by Bapu. I have never held that 
you write long letters to me just for the sake of exchange of ideas. 
I have always believed that by writing to me you can convey 
certain things to Bapu indirectly. That is why I place all your 
letters before him. 

It has never been my impression that you like violence better 
than imperfect non-co-operation. What I said was that your posi¬ 
tion was perilously near Moore’s and as for him, he always pre¬ 
ferred violence. As a matter of fact suffering humanity needs 
an ideal outlet. Bapu liked this one, and he has been trying to 
perfect it by easy stages. 

Either he will perish in the attempt or this outlet will be 
perfected. 

Bapu has decided to take a very important step in his life. 
You will probably learn of it before this reaches you. If you 
are not calling Bapu to Calcutta, then I can come down for a day 
to give you details. 

Yours sincerely, 
Mahadev 




285 


CHAPTER XXVII 
THE RAJKOT EPISODE 

The Rajkot story is so well-known in India that there 
is no need for me to attempt to recount it. Rapu’s famous 
fast, the sympathetic attitude of Lord Linlithgow, who 
referred the matter to the late Sir Maurice Gwyery then 
• Chief Justice of India, for decision, and the latter’s award 
in favour of Bapu are not forgotten. Nor would there 
be any pleasure in giving the details of the story in which 
Sardar Patel, Bapu, and all the rest of us were led up the 
garden path to champion the cause of a weak and 
unenlightened Ruler, the Thakore, and his artful and 
intriguing Minister, Virawala, and to regard the inno¬ 
cent Sir Patrick Cadell, President of the Thakore’s 
Council, and the political agent, Mr. Gibson, as the arch¬ 
villains of the piece. This cardinal error, which the Sardar 
eventually discovered and Bapu described in the Harijan 
when Virawala was found to be playing false, was per¬ 
haps in the first instance not unconnected with the his¬ 
tory of Bapu’s family. They had been Dewans in 
Kathiawar (nowadays Saurashtra) for generations and 
felt some innate affection to them. Bapu indeed ordi¬ 
narily showed great respect towards the rulers. 

But there was a pleasant issue also and it is that to 
which I wish to allude. It brought Bapu and Gibson in 
touch with one another and, possibly to Bapu’s surprise, 
he discovered that the Political Agent instead of having 
horns, hooves and a tail was an ordinary friendly mortal. 

Plow heated the atmosphere was at one point will 
be seen from Mahadev’s account of a meeting with 
Mr. Laithwaite, the Viceroy’s Secretary, at my house:—- 

5th February, 1939 . 

Mr. Laithwaite came to tea at 5 p.m. and stayed for nearly 
two hours. Casual talk about tea and flowers and cows and 


286 


\ 


* 


THE RAJKOT EPISODE 

cattle shows and our previous visits to the Viceroy’s House— 
Mr. Laithwaite particularly mentioning Bapu’s broad laugh from 
comer to corner—led on to the talk of Ba’s arrest. 

‘They must be very comfortable indeed,’ said Mr. Laithwaite. 

‘Yes,’ said I, ‘but they must be extremely uncomfortable to 
think of the condition of others who are getting different treat¬ 
ment.’ And I mentioned one very disturbing piece of news I 
had received in the morning. Eight volunteers had been taken 
far into the interior of the country, severely hammered there and 
asked to sign forms of apology. This they refused to do. This 
was followed by more beating, and the confinement of one of 
them in a room where he was tortured for several hours, with 
electric shocks every now and then. ‘I agree,’ I said, ‘that all 
this is very difficult to believe, that there may be some exaggera¬ 
tion, but how can this whole story be manufactured ?’ Mr. Laith¬ 
waite appreciated the cautious way in which I put it and said he 
had no knowledge of these beatings, etc. I added that during 
the previous campaign which lasted for nearly three months there 
were no such stories. And whilst all this was being done there 
was absolutely no violence on the part of the people, not even 
the raising of a little finger. 

That led to a long dissertation on the part of Mr. Laithwaite 
about the varying conditions of things in different States, the tradi¬ 
tion of personal rule handed down the ages, the necessarily slow 
process of evolution of the democratic form of government in 
these States and so on. I mentioned the Butler Committee Report 
which said that where the demand for responsible government was 
widespread the Paramount Power was bound to help in suggest¬ 
ing measures for satisfying the demand, provided it did not seek 
to eliminate the prince. ‘That was ten years ago,’ said Mr. Laith¬ 
waite, ‘and I am sure if the report were to be written today, they 
would have modified the language and defined what they meant 
by responsible government.’ ‘The alteration would have been all 
to our advantage,’ said I and we all laughed. 

Ghanshyamdasji at this stage brought in the Rajkot question 
and wondered if the tragedy could not be immediately terminated. 
Mr. Laithwaite mentioned the Harijan article on Rajkot and Bapu’s 
very violent language. ‘There are two or three things to be borne 
in mind,’ said I. ‘You must remember that he is daily receiv- 


287 





IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

ing reports of happenings in Rajkot of which I have already given 
an instance. Although he receives these reports with a grain of 
salt, he cannot believe that all that is said can be without any 
foundation whatsoever. And if these tales are substantially true, 
I do not know what other language could be used. Then it must 
not be forgotten that even these articles, couched in very strong 
language conclude with an appeal to the Viceroy—a thing Gandhiii 
was not accustomed to do two years ago.’ 

Ghanshyamdasji particularly mentioned the sentence in the 
article about the Congress being the ally of the British Govern¬ 
ment and Bapu’s anxiety to have their co-operation. But he was 
getting the reverse instead and that exasperated him. 

I mentioned a third factor. I said, ‘The article in question 
was written a week ago. In the meanwhile there is this communi¬ 
que published by you making an attempt to explain the Govern¬ 
ment’s and the Thakore Saheb’s position. To that Gandhiji 
replies with a statement which, if I may say so, holds out the olive 
branch. Therein he has definitely said that if the question was 
only of the personnel he could persuade the Sardar to accommo¬ 
date the Thakore Saheb.’ 

But Mr. Laithwaite said, ‘The public do not have this! time¬ 
table before them. They read Mr. Gandhi’s statement on Satur¬ 
day and on Sunday they read his article. Look at the Statesman's 
article. There is much to say for what it says. And His Excel¬ 
lency is really surprised that while Mr. Gandhi’s letters are couched 
in the friendliest language his articles are written in a language 
which is quite the contrary.’ 

‘That is,’ I said, ‘because the letters are addressed to His 
Excellency the Viceroy and the articles are addressed to the people. 
If His Excellency was conducting a campaign, his language in his 
private correspondence would differ radically from the language 
of his articles.’ 

‘But,’ said Mr. Laithwaite, ‘you must agree, as I know 
Mr. Birla agrees, that it makes the position very difficult for His 
Excellency. These articles are not confined to India. They are 
wired home by Reuter, and you must remember the Statesman's 
comment about race animosity. You can imagine what effect it 
would have on the British public. I wish he wrote to His Excel¬ 
lency as harshly as he desired, but wrote in the Press as mildly as 
he could.’ 


288 


THE RAJKOT EPISODE 


‘Now that Statesman thing is absurd.’ said I. ‘What has the 
racial question to do with this ? And where does the Statesman 
find that race animosity in Gandhiji’s article ?’ 

‘You see this repetition day in and day out that the villain 
of the piece is the British Resident and that he is responsible for 
acts of goondaism. You need see Mr. Gibson only once to know 
that he is incapable of these things. He is such a mild man that 
no one would think he was capable of brutalities.’ 

‘No one, certainly not Gandhiji, alleges that Mr. Gibson is 
personally responsible for these acts of goondaism. He does not 
say that Mr. Gibson personally witnesses these beatings. But it 
must not be forgotten that it is the Agency Police and these sub¬ 
ordinates who believe that they are justified in doing all these 
things.’ 

‘Do you know the number of Agency Police in Rajkot?' 
Mr. Laithwaite asked. ‘I do not know,’ I said, ‘but Rajkot State 
can’t have a strong police force and the bulk of the police must 
be the Agency Police. But I am not sure. I can ascertain. Are 
you in personal touch with Mr. Gibson ?’ 

‘No, not now. The last time I saw him was in November. 
But I must say that the effect of Mr. Gandhi’s articles is different 
on the general reader from what it would be on us three and even 
on His Excellency. The average reader is bound to think that 
Mr. Gibson is being held personally responsible for all these 
doings, assuming that they are happening. And if no race-hatred 
is meant, should not Mr. Gandhi make it clear ?’ 

‘Certainly,’ said I, ‘he would be the first man to make it 
clear, for the thing has been remotest from his mind. It is foreign 
to his nature. The charge was not seriously made even during 
the fierce Civil Disobedience campaign. And he would also say 
that Mr. Gibson was not personally responsible for the brutalities. 
But he will not exculpate Mr. Gibson from the charge of bringing 
about this breach of promise, for which he has overwhelming 
evidence. You may discount the value of that evidence, but he 
cannot disbelieve the evidence of papers he has got from reliable 
sources.’ 

As the talk was getting rather heated, Ghanshyamdasji put in, 
‘But the long and short of it is that you need the proper atmos¬ 
phere for a re-starting of the negotiations. Is it not so ?’ 


289 


19 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

‘Yes. The atmosphere is very bad, it has deteriorated 
considerably since Mr. Gandhi’s article. His Excellency was 
happy to have the letter you brought. But this morning he saw 
the Harijan article and said, “What is the use of this friendly 
letter?” 

‘It is the easiest thing in the world to get Gandhiji to clear 
the atmosphere,’ I said, ‘if you mean by it these,rtwo charges that 
the Statesman has made.’ 

‘But how can you get Mr. Gibson to do anything whilst he 
is being held up to ridicule as the author of an immoral breach of 
promise ?’ 

‘I have some papers here,’ I said, ‘and I can show you how 
we maintain that he is to blame. I wish Sir Patrick Cadell was 
here.’ 

‘You mean to say he knows everything about this agreement ? 
And that he told Mr. Gibson ?’ 

‘I cannot swear that Sir Patrick saw the agreement. But 
Sir Patrick was there in the palace when the Thakore Saheb wrote 
that letter. I do not know that Sir Patrick told Mr. Gibson 
about it. But whatever may be the case, who in the world would 
believe that the Sardar would accept an agreement which was 
being interpreted by the Thakore in the way you say it is being 
done ? In that case the agreement should have been signed by 
the Sardar and not the Thakore.’ 

‘I have seen that ingenious argument in the Hindustan Times 
article. But why then was not the letter published or made part 
of the settlement ?’ 

‘Can’t you see that the Sardar had to accommodate the 
Thakore Saheb ? But let me tell you that even the names would 
have been there in the letter if only the Sardar had been ready 
to give the names there and then. But he had to consult his co¬ 
workers.’ 

‘But don’t you think Mr. Patel’s letter to Mr. Maneklal 
shows that the matter of personnel was one of mutual adjustment 
and that the Sardar had only to suggest the names ?’ 

‘No. You have missed the point. The approval of the 
Thakore Saheb was confined to seeing whether the names sugges¬ 
ted were those of State’s people or outsiders. I can prove to you 
that the only matter of dispute during the negotiations was whether 
these members should be State’s subjects or they may be from 
outside the State too.’ At this stage I showed him the draft with 


290 



THE RAJKOT EPISODE 


which Mr. Pattani saw Sir Patrick, the four points which Sir 
Patrick wanted cleared up—one of the points being that the 
members should be only State’s subjects—and the language of the 
draft where the wording was that the Sardar should select seven 
names and the Thakore Saheb should nominate them—language 
to which Sir Patrick had raised no objection whatsoever. ‘But,’ 
said I, ‘Sir Patrick went back on his promise, because he had 
seen Mr. Gibson the previous day and he had disapproved of the 
whole thing.* 

‘If I am not mistaken,’ said Ghanshyamdasji, ‘Sir Patrick 
himself told the Sardar or Pattani that Mr. Gibson had disapproved 
of it.* 

‘And why forget the other serious part of the breach ?’ said 
I. ‘The communique issued after the breakdown differs materially 
from the communique announcing the settlement.’ 

‘Yes, Mr. Birla has told me that, but I should like to know 
wherein it differs.’ 

I read out to him the portion containing the words ‘the widest 
possible powers’ and the portion in the new communique where 
the ‘people’s share in the administration’ was mentioned. I also 
mentioned the fact that in the private talk with Mr. Gibson he 
had objected to the phrase ‘the widest possible powers’ and had 
succeeded in getting it eliminated. I also said that the Thakore 
in his notification had used words which he would never have 
used at the time of the settlement viz. that the people ought not 
to think of having, at the instigation of outsiders, more than they 
could digest. We could not help reading the hand of Mr. Gibson 
in all this. 

Ghanshyamdasji again referred to the question of re-opening 
the negotiations, and Mr. Laithwaite harked back to making the 
atmosphere ready. ‘What exactly do you mean by improving the 
atmosphere ? Please tell me definitely what exactly you would 
expect Gandhiji to do in order to improve the atmosphere?’ 
Ghanshyamdasji asked. 

‘You see there have been personal attacks savouring of racial 
animosity. This I think should definitely be stopped. You don’t 
realise His Excellency’s difficulties. However sympathetic he may 
be, he cannot help until the atmosphere is better,’ Laithwaite 
replied, 


291 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

‘I agree that there should be no personal bitterness because 
I personally believe that if negotiations are started, Gibson could 
be extremely helpful and therefore he should not be unnecessarily 
ruffled.’ 

‘I wonder how far Gibson would be helpful after all these 
attacks that have been made on him. I am sure he does not 
deserve them.’ 

‘I don’t think I need take an unhopeful view of Gibson’s atti¬ 
tude. I remember vividly how Emerson, after he was introduced 
by Lord Irwin to Bapu, became distinctly friendly and how helpful 
he was in everything that was subsequently done. I see no reason 
why Sardar and Gibson could not again start negotiations at some 
stage and bring about a settlement. I don’t expect Gibson to bring 
any coercion on the Thakore. Yet he could give friendly advice, 
and I know what friendly advice from the representative of the 
Paramount Power means. I am expecting that if the atmosphere 
does improve and negotiations are re-started, His Excellency will 
direct Gibson privately to give all friendly help in restoring the 
pact.’ 

‘Yes, I agree, although I do not wish to say what His Excel¬ 
lency will do; but I can tell you this definitely that if the atmos¬ 
phere improves, it would definitely contribute towards a satisfac¬ 
tory solution.’ 

At this stage, I suggested that Ghanshyamdasji might go to 
Wardha. Laithwaite quietly listened without making any com¬ 
ment. 

I said the atmosphere could be cleared but Mr. Laithwaite 
must know that more serious to my mind than the charge of being 
personally responsible for brutalities, was the charge of being 
responsible for the breach of faith. Whilst the one charge could 
be withdrawn (because it was never made), the other charge 
stood and would stand. ‘But Bapu need not rub that thing in 
again and again. It is known. The other thing may be cleared 
up,’ said Ghanshyamdasji. ‘You can go to Bapu and get him 
to do that. I am sure that the negotiations could be opened by 
the Sardar reiterating Bapu’s statement to the effect that he could 
accommodate the Thakore on the question of the personnel, i.e., 
by the inclusion of a Mussalman and a Bhayat, provided he was 
given the liberty of adding two more names.’ 


292 


THE RAJKOT EPISODE 


‘Was that part of the agreement that he should have a majo¬ 
rity of five ?’ 

‘The mention of numbers of 7 and 2 signifies that,’ I said. 
But we are not here as negotiators. Let the Sardar and Thakore 
Saheb decide it. But the original terms of the settlement must 
be restored.’ 

Mr. Laithwaite indicated that the making of a statement by 
the Sardar on the lines I had indicated would be helpful. 

Mahadev’s account went to the Sardar and in his reply 
he took a very dim view of Mr. Gibson:— 

8 th February , 1939. 

My dear Mahadev, 

I got your letter along with a copy of the substance of your 
conversation with Mr. Laithwaite. I am afraid I am not inclined 
to agree with you about your estimate as to their attitude. It is 
diplomatic but I am afraid, not honest. The Statesman has writ¬ 
ten the last article more frankly, but if we write or say anything 
about a Gibson or a Beauchamp they attribute motives to us. 
There is no racial question involved in this. It is a defensive 
attack on their protected citadel and they are angry. They pre¬ 
tend ignorance when they are convinced of their guilt. Anyway, 
I see a fierce struggle ahead. I have no doubt that Mr. Gibson 
has organised forces of goondaism all over the Kathiawar States. 
In Limdi, we see the first overt act of his policy, of which you 
will feel sorry to hear. There have been three big dacoities in 
which several people in the villages have been looted and wound¬ 
ed. Armed dacoits have been let loose on an innocent popula¬ 
tion in the villages in order to terrorise the people who are resis¬ 
ting the tyranny of the State. For the last two or three days 
people have been sitting round the palace asking for an inquiry 
but there is no response from the State. Ba* is having a bad 
time. All this happens not merely with the connivance of Gibson; 
it must also be at his instigation. 

* Kasturba Gandhi- 

Yours sincerely, 
Vallabhbhai 

Gandhiji’s disillusionment with the Thakore, his 
fast, the Viceroy’s sympathetic attitude and Sir Maurice 


293 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

Gwyer’s decision in favour of Gandhiji followed. The 
tension was still unrelieved in mid-April when Mahadev 
'wrote to me as follows:— 

Sushila arrived this morning from Rajkot en route to Kunjab. 
(Gujrat where she is going to attend her brother’s wedding). 
She said there was a rather remarkable altercation between Bapu 
and Vallabhbhai one day. He had written three letters surrender¬ 
ing everything to the Mussalmans and the Bhayats. Vallabhbhai 
was exasperated. Bapu said : ‘I know that you have to suffer 
the consequence of my many stupid acts.’ To this Vallabhbhai 
replied : ‘No, there has been no stupid act up to now, but these 
three letters that you propose to send are stupid ! !’ Bapu laughed 
but later on seriously said : ‘Should I not then retire from all 
active leadership and live a life of contemplation ?’ I do not 
know how the talk went on further but the upshot was that the 
letters were tom up. Sushila also said that Bapu had discovered 
that Vallabhbhai had a better knowledge—and more instinctive 
knowledge—of the working of vicious human nature than he him¬ 
self had and he once exclaimed : ‘This step would have been 
suicidal’. (The reference was to the step of going on fast if the 
Mussalmans did not keep their word). So our long telegram 
of that morning was more than justified. 

But the whole business has set me thinking furiously. You 
will remember the long talk we had the other morning on the 
possibilities and implications of ahimsa, and what I have heard 
from Sushila leaves me wondering whether ahimsa is any good 
for the vindication of earthly rights—a proposition which was 
mooted by Mr. Arthur Moore in that famous controversy. When 
we next meet Bapu and can get a little time with him we should 
discuss this aspect of the matter threadbare with him. For the 
moment I do not know what the future has in store for us. We 
seem to be driven headlong to some indescribable, inscrutable 
destiny. 

I could not but express agreement with Mahadev’s 
doubts:— 

But frankly speaking I not only agree with you that ahimsa 
for securing worldly achievements is a doubtful proposition, but 


294 


THE RAJKOT EPISODE 


I have also got my grave doubts whether what has happened at 
Rajkot from beginning to end could be called ahimsa at all! In 
fact, as I told you the other day I am not convinced that this 
fasting business is not in itself an act of coercion. I don’t see 
how you are going to change the heart of your adversary through 
these ultimatums. The Sardar’s position could be understood 
because he never pretended to represent any high philosophy 
and his fight in Rajkot was more or less an unarmed rebellion, 
but not necessarily non-violent. And thus we cannot com¬ 
plain if we countenanced resistance from Virawala and the Thakore 
in our own coin. I don’t see how Gibson could help because we 
never spared Gibson. But of course the Viceroy’s responsibility 
is there. But he may have his own difficulties which we do not 
know. We have been impatient—which helps none. Testing 
events by Bapu’s philosophy, I do not feel that it could be said 
that we have been free from blame. I strongly feel that there 
should be no more of this fasting and I hope we shall be able to 
prevail upon Bapu when we all meet him in Calcutta. If there 
is to be a quiet chat, I suggest that yourself, myself and Bapu 
should talk alone. In the presence of the Sardar, I have not 
got the nerve to launch an attack. 

I rather enjoyed what you wrote about the conversation 
between Bapu and Sardar. The Sardar talks less and seems to 
talk without patience but his instinct is sound. The only thing 
is that even he did not find himself a good match for Virawala 

But the picture was now again changing completely. 
Mahadev and Mr. Gibson met. On May 19th Mahadev 
wrote:— 

I wonder what you will say regarding the latest statement of 
Bapu. It is our great misfortune that Bapu often resents our 
reaction to his step, but later comes to the same conclusion as 
us and then expresses it with a vehemence that embarrasses us 
all. Very often we remark on his impatience. He said he was 
not impatient and if he was he had a right to be so. Now he 
says his impatience was a sign of himsa (violence) and his running 
to the Paramount Power, his characterisation of the Thakore as 
a fraud and Virawala as ‘shifty’ and a curse to the State was 
impatient and, therefore, violent. I had a long argument about 


295 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

the statement. I said, ‘Don’t you think your approaching the 
P.P. and accepting their offer of the Chief Justice’s arbitration 
“was better morally and tactically than would have been your 
confining yourself only to the Thakore Sahib ? For satyagraha 
against a slave, for that is what every ruler is and nothing more, 
is unjustifiable’. To this he said: ‘You are talking from the 
result, and your statement that the Thakore is a slave of the 
Paramount Power is only half true. And even if he were no 
better than a slave, my satyagraha, if it was of the highest 
quality, would help him to throw off his slavery. Anyway, my 
decision to throw away the Award is the result of self-intro¬ 
spection, the anxiety to be rid of an oppression, an incubus that 
was pressing upon my breast all my waking hours.’ 

I had about 90 minutes talk with Mr. Gibson. He was 
very nice, quite frank, and even deferential. He has not yet 
forgotten the old sores —goondaism and the publication of what 
he maintains was an utterly inaccurate report of his talk, and so 
on. But I must say I liked him and I am glad I met him. 
The more I meet these people the more I am convinced that 
the whole of our agitation was a picture of our impatience, and 
much might have been achieved with a little more patience. 
However, no lesson is learnt too late. 

I was able to corroborate concerning Mr. Gibson in my 
reply:— 

* 

My Gwalior Mill Manager and Secretary were always full 
of praise for him as a man. He was reported to be very frank 
and nice to everyone and specially to children. He would come 
and play with them in the Mills. He could not have been both 
very good in personal behaviour and very bad in political be¬ 
haviour; and he received enough abuse from Bapu. Does he 
deserve any revised opinion of Bapu ? I, of course, believe 
that he was partly responsible for the breach. But he got much 
more than he deserved. My men would not admit that he could 
be a goonda . 

Lothian writes as follows:— 

It looks as if the Mahatma is gradually swinging Congress 
round to the policy he outlined to me when I went to stay with 


THE RAJKOT EPISODE 

him at Segaon. I think, however, it will be necessary to limit 
the pace at which full Government is developed in the States. 
The people as yet had no experience of representative institu¬ 
tions, and if Congress pushes them too far, it may push the 
Mohammedans out of India altogether. I am more convinced 
than ever that the basic principles of the Federation are the 
only ones upon which India can move forward and avoid cala¬ 
mity. If you see the Mahatma, please give him my kindest 
regards. 

Will you please place my letter before Bapu? 

Bapu now made an overture and Gibson wrote to him as 
follows:— 

The Residency, Rajkot, 
Balachadi, 27-5-39 . 

Dear Mr. Gandhi, 

It is very nice of you to have written as you have. Thank 
you very much. More work there was in those days which you 
recall, but I don’t mind work if it is worth doing. So much that 
one has to do nowadays is not. The people who were really 
overworked I think were the telegraph and telephone operators! 
Residents (if I may let you into a secret) are always overworked. 

I expect to be back in Rajkot on the night of May 31st 
and I have written to Mr. Mahadev Desai and suggested having 
a talk on the following morning. And of course I should like 
to have another talk with you before you leave but I expect you 
will be very busy that morning, so I don’t suggest it; but if you 
can spare a few minutes, please come at whatever time suits you. 

Yours sincerely, 

E. C. Gibson 

And here is an extract from another letter from 
Mahadev:— 

Mr. Gibson arrives tomorrow evening and both Bapu and 
I will have an interview with him. Perhaps you do not know 
how I started my interview with him when I saw him about a week 
ago. I told nim that all I knew about him was what I had heard 
from the Gwalior Mill Manager about his friendliness with 
children and readiness to come and play with them occasionally. 


297 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

I think that was enough to touch the right chord in his heart and 
we talked merrily, as you know, for 90 minutes. 

1 forgot to tell you that Mr. Gibson has a delightful but 
dry sense of humour. I enclose a copy of his latest letter to Bapu 
in reply to the one written by Bapu to him expressing his regret 
for having been a constant source of worry during the days of 
the fast, which after all had to be infructuous ! 



298 


CHAPTER XXVIII 

SOME CROSSWORD PUZZLES 
AND SOLUTIONS 

At this time Bapu puzzled us all with apparent contra¬ 
dictions in his views and statements. Looking back on 
this now, we can see that he was fundamentally right in 
all that he did as our national leader, and that but for 
him we might not yet be an independent nation. But 
it is clear that even at this stage he had dawning doubts 
about the capacity of the masses to assimilate his doc¬ 
trine of ahimsa or to remain non-violent and had pre¬ 
monitions of the tragedy of Partition and the events that 
accompanied and followed it. In bitter grief he confes¬ 
sed that what he had believed to be true non-violence was 
a ‘weak copy’, namely passive resistance. We ordinary 
mortals can recognise that passive resistance for any com¬ 
munity or nation on a large scale can be a very effective 
weapon, and that those who lack guns and bayonets can 
by this means sometimes succeed without them. 

, In my account for Bapu of an interview with Lord 
Linlithgow on the 2nd April, 1940, I wrote:— 

He made a grievance of the fact that whenever Gandhiji 
talked to him, he always made it clear that he did not represent 
Congress views. That put him (the Viceroy) to great disadvan¬ 
tage. He followed Gandhiji only to find that he was left in the 
air. Next time when he would see him, he would see him as 
the representative of the Congress. ... He gave me the impres¬ 
sion of a tired man who is extremely disappointed, but he feels 
a genuine grievance against Gandhiji that while he tried his best to 
help, there was no reciprocation. He did not want a full settle¬ 
ment with Muslims, but only wanted Gandhiji to satisfy himself 
that any scheme that was proposed would work. 

About the same time, on April 4th, Bapu was writing 
to the Viceroy:— 


299 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

I should be very sorry indeed to discover that I left on your 
mind the impression that if Dominion Status of the Statute of 
-Westminster variety was meant, the Congress would accept 
it... Whilst I am writing to you I also want to get another 
thing off my mind. I have already told you that in my son 
Devadas you have a warm-hearted champion. He has been 
writing long letters to me trying to convince me that I did you 
a gross injustice in abruptly terminating our last conversa¬ 
tion. He discounts my assurance that the conversation ended 
because both you and I saw that the gulf between us was found 
to be too unbridgeable to be handled at that moment by pro¬ 
longing our conversations. Indeed it was your expression that 
it would be more manly for us to end the conversations the very 
day we began them and make the confession to the public. I 
at once accepted the accuracy of your characterisation. Devadas 
says that was said out of courtesy, if not British pride, and that 
you were eager to prolong the conversations. He is thus most 
disconsolate, and thinks that my interpretation of your attitude 
is wrong. You alone can help me to settle this domestic dispute. 

Mahadev, too, was unhappy. On the 12th he wrote to 
me:— 

Devadas’ differences with Bapu are still there. He says : 
Had you told the Viceroy, ‘We ourselves do not want any kind 
of Dominion Status, but tell us what brand you want to give us’* 
then the Viceroy would have replied, ‘Let us postpone discus¬ 
sions on this subject for some future date ; it is no use talking 
about it now.’ His line of reasoning is sound enough, but what 
can we do ? At times Bapu creates misunderstandings which he 
cannot solve. This he does not do deliberately, but he is so 
multi-sided that while the opposite party sees one thing, Bapu has 
a different thing in his mind. 

Then when I reminded Bapu about your question, he said* 
‘Why ask the Viceroy about it; it will be seen to afterwards/ 
That is why he has made no mention of it in his reply. 

Another puzzle led me to write on the 17th to 
Mahadevbhai: —- 

You may have drawn the attention of Bapu towards a 
rejoinder of Liaquat Ali Khan. I fear Liaquat Ali’s criticism 


300 


SOME CROSSWORD PUZZLES AND SOLUTIONS 

lias some strength. Bapu’s writings, if they are to be taken 
literally, do sound inconsistent. We know Bapu will have no 
difficulty in giving a correct interpretation ; but the fact remains 
that, more often than not, Bapu is misunderstood by his oppo¬ 
nents, and even those who are in close touch with him find it 
difficult at times to gauge his mind correctly. 

When I was in Wardha, Bapu was in fact arguing against 
Rajaji who argued in favour of partition. And now he says he would 
resist it although in a non-violent manner, with all the force at his 
command. Such misunderstanding is not confined to the Viceroy 
or to Liaquat Ali but also to many other quarters. Moore, with 
whom I was lunching the day before yesterday at his house, was 
very puzzled. He says he reads so much contradictory matter in 
the Harijan that he virtually gets confused. He wants at times to 
write to support Bapu, but he himself does not know what ex¬ 
actly Bapu is leading up to and thinks that there is confusion in 
Bapu’s mind. We all know he is not correct in reading confusion 
in Bapu’s articles, but we also ought to know what people feel 
and think about them. 

Bapu was unmoved by Hitler’s domination of Europe. 
On the 16th May, Mahadev wrote to me:— 

There was a telephone call from Devadas. Holland has 
surrendered. Belgium will go the same way. Now Bapu should 
establish direct contact with the Cabinet and send a long cable 
to the Cabinet through the Viceroy. That might yield some 
Tesult. Bapu said there was nothing in the news. Hitler’s stock 
with Bapu is going up. I remarked that so long as he said no¬ 
thing publicly, it was going to be all right! 

On the 21st Bapu himself wrote to me:— 

\ 

Europe is at present the meeting ground of people gathered 
together for mutual destruction just as the Yadavas did. Be 
that as it may, my heart is hardened. 

With Bapu’s blessings. 

Bapu unfortunately took it for granted that Britain 
had lost the War and wrote a letter to Lord Linlithgow 
in which he said so. Mahadev. who apparently dis¬ 
approved of this action, wrote to me on June the 6th:— 


301 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

A reply to that letter has arrived. In his letter Bapu had 
written: ‘This manslaughter must be stopped. You are losing 
if you persist it will only result in greater bloodshed. Hitler is 
not a bad man. If you will call it off today, he will follow suit. 
If you want to send me to Germany or anywhere else, I am at 
your disposal. You can also inform the Cabinet about this.’ I 
was convinced they would treat this as a piece of impudence. 
The reply that has arrived is excellent: ‘We are engaged in a 
struggle ; so long as we do not achieve our aim, we are not going 
to budge. I know your solicitude for us, but everything is go¬ 
ing to be all right. You have expressed your concern for our 
two sons, which has greatly touched us.’ That is all. 

Meantime, Bapu was threatening a fast, not for 
some great national issue but on account of some sup¬ 
posed petty theft in the Ashram, and confusion reigned 
at Sevagram. Mahadev wrote on June the 3rd:— 

There is always some excitement of one kind or another 
here. Somebody had stolen a letter, written to Bapu by a girl, 
and a pen placed alongside it. Afterwards the pen was found 
where it had been thrown away ; tom bits of the letter were also 
found. This has shocked Bapu so much that he has declared : 
‘This cannot be an act of the servants. The culprit is hidden 
among us. If nobody comes forward with a confession by 
Friday, then I will go on a fast from Saturday.’ We have been 
trying our best to find out the culprit and to reason with every¬ 
body, but so far without any result. Such psychological acts 
swallow up a great deal of our time. 

And again on the 6 th:— 

The episode of the theft has taken an ugly turn. Yester¬ 
day Bapu said all of a sudden to A., ‘I suspect you. Why not 
make a confession.’ I was also taken aback. A—replied, ‘I 
did not take it. I am innocent. Allah is my witness.’ She has 
gone on fast from today. I told Bapu that by thus accusing 
her, he acted with the same amount of precipitancy with which 
he made public his intention to fast. Once he feels that he has 
done this girl a wrong he will try to make amends by doing 
justice to her a hundred times over; and that will be an act of 


302 



SOME CROSSWORD PUZZLES AND SOLUTIONS 

injustice in itself. Bapu has already acted like this in many 
other instances. I told Bapu all this, but he remained unmoved. 
Up to the present moment the intention to fast stands. If you 

will give a ring tomorrow, more might be gathered. 

* 

Needless to say, I did give a ring—as Mahadev 
suggested—and pleaded with Bapu. Mahadev wrote in 
reply 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

We received your telephone call. I had already reasoned 
with Bapu sufficiently. I said : ‘It would be understandable if 
you went on fast as a measure of penance if you know who 
committed the sin. But to go on fast in order to find out the 
culprit, would be something not quite right. It would be 
assuming the attributes of God and an expression of pride if we 
claim to know or try to know everything. You must therefore 
give up the idea of going on fast. There are many uncertain fac¬ 
tors in it.’ Bapu wrote, ‘I have your viewpoint before me.’ 

This gives me hope that after all Bapu may not launch on 
a fast. I am not prepared to accept that somebody belonging to 
this place has stolen the letter or the pen. We may all be mid¬ 
gets, but that we would go the whole length of compelling Bapu 
to undertake a fast before we made a clean breast of an act of 
petty theft, is a thing beyond my comprehension. 

On the 10th, however, Mahadev reported good news:— 

Bapu’s fast stands postponed, and this should be held 
mainly due to my strenuous endeavours and strong opposition. 
Never before had I been so vehement in my opposition to any 
of Bapu’s steps. Even after Bapu had started his fast I wrote 
a long letter to him in which I said it was not a religious fast 
and that until it was discontinued, I would persist in my oppo¬ 
sition. Within two hours Bapu decided to give up the fast. 

But meanwhile Rajaji, myself and others were seek¬ 
ing some settlement with Britain, and the Congress did 
not ignore the larger issue. They put forward a well- 
reasoned proposal for the formation of a national govern¬ 
ment which would aid in the prosecution of the war 


303 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

to a successful finish. But by this time distrust on the 
part of those Britons who had themselves been invete¬ 
rate appeasers and encouragers of Hitler had gone too 
'deep and the Congress proposals were rejected. It is 
fair to add that they received some support from Britons 

in Britain and even from some of those in India. 

• 

48, Bazlullah Road, 
Thyagarayanagar, Madras, 

16th August , 1940. 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

The local papers have reproduced the main part of Mr. 
Arthur Moore’s article commenting on Mr. Amery’s statement 
and supporting the Congress demand for a provisional National 
Government. Please convey to him that I greatly appreciate the 
unanswerable way in which he has put the case. I hope it has 
gone fully to England. 

Yours sincerely, 

C. Rajagopalachariar 


304 


/ 


CHAPTER XXIX 

A PERSONAL EXPLANATION 

This chapter is ‘on a point of personal explanation’, as 
members used to say in the old Legislative Assembly. 

At the end of 1940 I had a first-class row with 
Lord Linlithgow. The only reason why I mention this 
now is that it is closely connected with a then prevalent 
notion of my own activities at this time. Put bluntly, 
this was that I did not call myself a Congressman but 
secretly largely contributed to its finances ; thus I was 
keeping a foot in both camps. 

Whether or not some people also gave me the 
benefit of the doubt and ascribed my support of Con¬ 
gress also to patriotism, I do not know. Re-reading my 
own account of my final interview with Sir Gilbert Laith- 
waite, 1 am inclined to think that both he and the 
Viceroy did attribute it to patriotism and saw nothing 
wrong in it. They merely took the view that the Con¬ 
gress at that time was hindering and not helping the war 
effort and, therefore, believing as they did that I was 
financing the Congress, the Viceroy felt a difficulty about 
publicly maintaining close relations with me while send¬ 
ing Congressmen to jail. This did not necessarily mean 
that he had any less regard for me, or for those whom 
he felt compelled to send to jail and with whom he would 
be quite willing to resume cordial relations when the 
struggle was over. But I flared up and was furiously 
angry, because I felt that he of all men should have been 
aware that I did not finance the Civil Disobedience Move¬ 
ment. My devotion was to Bapu, to whom I could 
refuse nothing and who was accustomed to turn to me 
for help in all his plans. But Bapu was well aware that 
I was not a Congressman and he did not either ask me 
to subscribe to Civil Disobedience Movement funds or 

305 

20 




IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

divert any of the sums he received through me for such 
a purpose. He himself did not provide funds for Con¬ 
gress nor was he ordinarily accustomed to appeal for 
funds for it. Such was his influence with the public, 
that he was a magniftcient money-raiser, but his appeals 
were on behalf of the Harijans, cottage industries, basic 
education and many more constructive projects. 

Here is what I wrote to Mahadev at the time: 

29th December, 1940. 

Immediately on coming here I wrote to Laithwaite asking 
him to get me an appointment with the Viceroy and added that 
I would also like to see him after I had met H.E. Came back 
the reply. He was afraid there was no hope of seeing the 
Viceroy but that he himself would be very glad to see me. I 
suspected that there had been a departure from the old policy 
but I refused to believe this until I had seen Laithwaite. 

Next day S. C. Mitra was going to see the Viceroy. The 
Viceroy only a week before had told him that he was keeping 
in touch with Gandhiji through myself whom he called ‘my friend, 
Mr. Birla.’ Naturally therefore Mitra wanted to know if he 
could place any proposal before the Viceroy. I told him that 
you had given Laithwaite a formula and that Mitra should press 
the same on the Viceroy. Mitra, after seeing the Viceroy, could 
not remember anything about the formula. But when Mitra told 
him that he might discuss it again with me, the Viceroy said : 
‘Mr. Birla is a friend of mine, but he is these days financing 
the Movement. Although he has every right to do so, since it 
is his own money, yet the fact that he is financing the Movement 
deters me from meeting him just now.’ When I heard this, my 
suspicion was confirmed. The policy had changed. All the same, 
I went to see Laithwaite. 

On meeting him I told Laithwaite that although I had come 
to discuss something constructive about the present impasse, I 
however felt that I should tell him first of all how rudely shocked 
I was to hear what the Viceroy told Mitra about me. But 
Laithwaite replied, ‘But is it not the common talk here ?’ I said, 
‘I do not care what the common talk is, but do you believe it?’ 
‘No.’ ‘You do,’ said I. And I added that since I had dis¬ 
covered that I was not trusted by the Viceroy, I did not want to 


306 


A PERSONAL EXPLANATION 


pursue the matter further. Laithwaite said, ‘But aren’t you a Con¬ 
gressman?’ I replied, ‘No, I am not a Congressman. But I am 
a Gandhi-man. To me Gandhiji is more like a father. I am 
deeply interested in all his philanthropic and constructive 
work. Gandhiji has never asked me to join the political war. 
The Viceroy should have known by this time, that no man 
among Indians has worked harder to help him (the Viceroy) or 
stood more loyally by him than myself. And this is how the 
Viceroy has reciprocated. If the Viceroy feels that on the one 
hand I come to him as a friend and on the other I am secretly act¬ 
ing against him, then I have no desire to waste his time any 
more. The Viceroy has wronged me by suspecting my honesty 
and I have no desire to allow myself to be snubbed any more.’ 

Laithwaite felt a little nonplussed. He said, ‘But what’s 
wrong with having political affiliations of one’s own liking?’ I 
said certainly there would be nothing wrong. But it would be 
absolutely wrong if a man pretended to be one thing while he 
was something quite different. I had done my best to make 
myself personally known to the Viceroy and Laithwaite. But 
evidently even after five years they had failed to establish human 
contact with me. They were now suspecting my honesty. And 
so I had no desire to continue this sort of relation any more. 

Laithwaite tried to soothe me and wanted to know what 
exactly was the constructive proposal that I wanted to give him. 
But I said I had lost all self-confidence to discuss any constructive 
proposal. He said, ‘What difference does it make whether you 
come as a friend or as an opponent ?’ I said, ‘It does. If I come 
as an opponent, then I don’t cut much ice. I can cut ice 
only if I come as a friend. And now that I am not recognised 
as a friend, I have no desire to talk further.’ On being pressed 
further, halfheartedly I told him what I had wanted to talk about. 
He again tried to soothe me. 

He came to the outer precincts of his office to see me 
off and showed all courtesy. But I was not in a mood to be 
soothed. This ends the matter. He said, ‘We could always 
meet and discuss things.’ But I told him that after this snub 
by the Viceroy, I was not going to the Viceroy’s house again 
and that this was the last chapter of my talks with him. 

You know how I have defended the Viceroy before Bapu 
and how I have acted as if I was the Viceroy’s representative. 


307 







IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


And this is the way he has reciprocated. Is it not stupidity ? But 
let not Bapu misjudge the Viceroy. Who knows if he may not 
himself be a victim of circumstances. 

In any case, this brings to an end my relations with the 
Viceroy. What wooden minds these men have got! 


308 




CHAPTER XXX 


BAPU AS CORRESPONDENT 

My readers may have remarked that I have quoted more 
freely from my correspondence with Bapu’s confidential 
secretaries than with himself. I wrote more often to 
them because I did not wish to throw upon him the 
burden of replying to me himself. Such was the sweet¬ 
ness of his disposition that he would undoubtedly have 
felt himself obliged to do so. In any case I knew that all 
my letters addressed to his secretaries were put before 
him. Unfortunately hundreds of well-meaning admirers, 
the majority of them personally unknown to him, were 
continually writing to him direct and to these he usually 
replied personally. This was a tax both upon his time 
and his health, and as his correspondents were proud of 
his letters and usually kept them as trophies, few public 
men have ever left such a voluminous correspondence 
behind them. 

Bapu, however, did continue to write to me himself 
at intervals. And the amusing thing was that, whereas 
I was intensely interested in his health and, when he was 
not staying with me in Delhi, I was continually sending 
telegrams to his Ashram if his blood-pressure was re¬ 
ported to be up or his weight down, he himself in his 
letters was chiefly preoccupied, often quite unnecessarily, 
with my health. I have already recounted the care¬ 
ful instructions which he wrote to me many years ago 
when, as a young man, I visited England for the first 
time. This interest continued, and some of his letters 
are hardly suitable for publication owing to their inti¬ 
mate details and somewhat medical flavour. Here, 
however, are a couple of examples written near the end 
of his life:— 


309 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


Sevagram, 20-3-45 . 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

I have sent you an express telegram, a copy of which is 
enclosed. What are you taking, how much and when, what 
vegetables are you taking, and are you taking them raw, or 
boiled ? I hope the water is not thrown away. Bread prepared 
from bran will not be a better substitute for toast. The flour is 
not separated from the chaff, I hope. If you are taking milk, 
then how much ? Whatever else you may take, you must take 
one half-ounce of butter well spread over the toast or bread pre¬ 
pared from bran, together with salad. If you develop indigestion, 
then you can discontinue other things, but not butter. Take 
a deep breath ; it is very necessary. Close one nostril and breathe 
deeply with the other—by increasing it gradually you can do it 
for half an hour at a stretch. Utter the word Ram with every 
breath you take. When doing breathing exercises, you should have 
air on all sides ; open air is preferable. This has to be done 
in the morning as a matter of course ; and thereafter when the 
food has been digested. This exercise must be taken at least 
four times a day. After taking a deep breath, it should be dis¬ 
charged. This practice should be observed from the beginning. 
This moves the bowels and induces sleep. If you will do this 
exercise wisely you will get rid of the cough soon enough. 

With Bapu’s blessings. 
9-4-45. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

Can you read my handwriting ? If you find any difficulty, 
then in future I shall dictate my letters. 

The days are passing and the time for a heart-to-heart talk 
is not available. Therefore let me write out what I have to say. 
A reply can be given in a few sentences. This does not, of course, 
mean that I am withdrawing what I have said. I am not going 
away soon but I do not wish to postpone what I have to say. 

1. My work has increased. What I am trying to achieve at 
present is that all the institutions established by me are self- 
sufficient and no more money is expected from me. This will, 
of course, take some time, and meanwhile I shall have to find 
money for them as well. These organisations are : (1) A. I. 
Spinners Association, (2) Village Industries Association, (3) Nai 
Talim, (4) Hindustani Prachar and (5) the Ashram. It is about 


310 


BAPU AS CORRESPONDENT 


the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th institutions that I am now speaking. 
So far as the 5th organisation—the Ashram—is concerned, it can 
never be self-dependent, though there is no lack of effort on my 
part to achieve even that. The Ashram also includes the hospi¬ 
tal. The accounts of the hospital are maintained separately. 
Efforts are being made to get the money needed for its expenses 
from different sources ; still the annual expenses of the Ashram 
alone are nearly Rs. 1,00,000. This I am quoting from memory. 
The Ashram is not in need of funds at present. Rameshwardas 
sends the needed money. As for 2, 3 and 4, money is needed 
for these. I believe Rameshwardas has sent some money. Money 
is needed for the propagation of Hindi and for Nai Talim. Prob¬ 
ably I shall be needing Rs. 2,00,000. Are you disposed to take 
this burden on your shoulders? As for the Sufferers’ Fund, there 
is a mention of it in Rameshwardas’ letter. I have also given my 
opinion. 

2. Now for the colleagues’ relationships and my experi¬ 
ment. The experiment has been suspended on account of the 
colleagues, nor do I find anything improper in it. As for myself, 
I am the same celibate that I was in 1906 when I took a vow, 
and in 1901 when I began as one. Today I am a better 
celibate than I was in 1901. What my experiment has achieved 
is that it has made me a confirmed celibate. The experiment was 
for the purpose of becoming a perfect celibate and, God willing, 
it will lead to perfection. You wanted to talk to me and ask 
questions on this subject. You can do both ; please do not hesi¬ 
tate. I shall certainly not tolerate hesitation in one with whom 
I have intimate connections and whose money I make use of to 
such a great extent. 

It is good that both the brothers are together. This letter is 
not only for both the brothers, but for all the brothers and other 
members of the family. 

I was thinking of writing a smaller letter, but it has become 
quite lengthy. There are two main things in it. 

With Bapu’s blessing. 

PS.—I forgot to mention one thing. You have given Rs. 50,000 
for the Ashram land which has been transferred to the Goshala. 
The list that Chimanlal has sent now also mentions the Ashram 
field which has a well in it. If that is so, then the house is also 
gone. But that cannot be. There seems to be some mistake. 


311 


o 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

Though Jankidevi and others wrote, there was no result. Now, if 
you consider that the entire land with the well has been give to the 
-Goshala, then some amount will have to be deducted from your 
Rs. 50,000. Do what you think proper. 

Bapu 

But at a still later period he wrote to me much more 
frequently. 

* * * * 

It is remarkable that at a time of such political ex¬ 
citement, when he himself was carrying heavy responsi¬ 
bilities, he could detach himself from the hurly-burly and 
busy himself with the minutest details concerning the 
welfare schemes he had undertaken. Thus, on the 16th 
October 1945, he wrote me a long letter, the first part 
of which was entirely devoted to school buildings and 
a sanatorium at Nasik. He continued :— 

Let me also tell you the Sardar’s view of this matter. He 
holds that I should not interest myself in all this to such an 
extent and should be content to secure financial assistance. . . . 
The Sardar is a keen observer of human psychology, and his 
regard for me has been of the deepest kind. Therefore, I thought 
it prudent to place his view of things also before you, so that you 
may be able to form your own detached judgment. 

There follows more about Nasik and the nature-cure 
system. Then follows an interesting passage :— 

In spite of my obvious interest in this matter, I would like 
you to believe that I am supervising and doing this work in a de¬ 
tached spirit. My programme to live to 125 carried with 
it the condition that I should maintain an attitude of detachment 
to an extent possible of human achievement. Whether it is or 
is not possible, or how it is possible is a thing I do not know, nor 
do I care to know. Let me do what I regard as my duty, keeping 
that as an ideal before me. Not that I do not know that it is 
difficult to realise that ideal; but, then, I have spent a lifetime 
in doing difficult things. 

. With Bapu’s blessing. 


312 


BAPU AS CORRESPONDENT 


That he was an extremely shrewd businessman, in 
the interest of his various good causes, the following 
letter will illustrate :— 

12-7-46. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

You know nearly ten lacs of rupees of the Kasturba Trust 
are at present lying in fixed deposit account with the Central 
and the United Commercial Bank, with the Holding Trustees’ 
sanction. The Central Bank pays interest for a period of 12 
months and the United Commercial Bank pays at the rate of 
2i%. As the Trust is devoted to philanthropic work, it would 
be proper if the Banks pay to the Trust what they realise by way 
of Government loans or from other sources. This means that the 
Trust must get at least 3% interest. I am writing to Sir Homi 
Mody about the interest from the Central Bank, and to you about 
the interest from the United Commercial Bank. It would be pro¬ 
per if you, in your capacity as the Chairman of the Bank, sanc¬ 
tion 3% interest. 

I am starting for Panchgani tomorrow. Please send your 
reply there. 

With Bapu’s blessings. 

He called me at Panchgani and I went there. He 
had very big plans for nature-cure which he discussed 
but subsequently dropped the scheme. 


313 


CHAPTER XXXI 

THE COMING OF INDEPENDENCE 

As may be imagined, we had an agitated time at the end 
of the War, in the first half of 1945. But the scene 
changed so completely when the Labour Government 
came to power in August that there is little point in dwel¬ 
ling on the comings and goings of those days: the Wavell 
plan, the Simla conference and all the other excitements. 
Mr. Jinnah, whom too many made the mistake of dis¬ 
missing as a bluffer, proved to be an insurmountable 
obstacle to all-Indian unity, and a ruthlessly determined 
man. The change of government in Britain did nothing 
to move this obstacle, and at first the significance of the 
change in Britain was not sufficiently grasped in India. 
How hard does suspicion die! 

Sir Stafford Cripps wrote to me: 

I do hope that your Congress friends will give us some help 
by not being purely negative in their outlook. 

The statements made by Congress were not very helpful to 
those of us here who are trying to push this matter through and 
tend to add enormous weight to the arguments of those opposing. 

I am most grateful to you for what you have done and are 
doing to assist in smoothing the way. It certainly is the inten¬ 
tion of H.M.G. to proceed with the matter but we cannot succeed 
without help from India. 

In my reply I wrote:— 

You will hear rather intemperate speeches at election time. 
But they should be discounted. After all, an election is an elec¬ 
tion, and the British Election was no less bitter than our Election. 
Besides, there is the past background and the difference between 
British psychology in England and out here. And above all this, 
unfortunately, the Indonesian trouble is agitating the mind of the 
public a great deal. I am hoping that H.M.G. will make a helpful 
move towards the solution of this question too. Democracy and 


314 


THE COMING OF INDEPENDENCE 


self-government for Indonesians are no less necessary than for 
other nations. I dare say you have nothing but sympathy with 
this aspiration. The solution of such allied questions must have 
a great effect on the mind of all Asiatic nations. 

I definitely see a bright and friendly future. Much will 
depend on how both sides act, which again will depend on the 
proper approach and personal contacts. 

I wish there were more personal contacts at this stage 
because the next six months are going to be very crucial for the 
relations between the two countries. I have already made this 
suggestion to some of my friends here. But they all seem to be 
very busy at present with the elections. How I wish some people 
from your side would visit India in their individual capacity. 

Let us, however, on both sides do our best to smoothen the 
position and I have no doubt in my own mind that, God willing, 
it will be possible to establish permanent friendly relations 
between the two countries which will be to the good of the whole 
world. 

I had much correspondence at this time with Mr. 
Arthur Henderson. The Cabinet Mission, consisting of 
Lord Pethick-Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps and Mr. 
Alexander, duly arrived. Sir Stafford Cripps and 
Pethick-Lawrence were well-known friends of India and 
it might, one supposes, have been clear to the average 
intelligent man that they fully intended to carry out the 
wartime promise of the British Government to proceed 
immediately with India’s independence as soon as hosti¬ 
lities ceased and without waiting for the signing of a 
peace treaty. The fates were, however, driving us in¬ 
exorably towards Partition. The Congress could not 
believe that the Cabinet Mission Plan was expressly 
designed in order to avoid Partition ; indeed, they re¬ 
garded it as the latest manifestation of a ‘divide and rule’ 
policy, in which they had been brought up to believe and 
which, no doubt, at some time had been adopted by 
Britons in India though frowned upon at Westminster. 
In any case, the Cabinet Mission Plan was rejected, the 
Congress saying that they would accept it only if allowed 


315 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

to put their own interpretation on it, an interpretation 
which Mr. Attlee, the British Prime Minister, plainly 
told them was not correct, since it was not that of its 
authors, who naturally might be supposed to know. 
Rajaji, as usual, kept his head and wrote to me :— 

20-5-46 . 

My dear Ghanshyamdasji, 

I read the Working Committee’s resolution in the papers 
this morning. It is as I feared—crying for 16 annas in the rupee 
and repeating the old story. 

I wonder if you have any more cheerful things to say. 

I somehow or other not only believed in the inevitability 
of Partition but always considered this as a good way 
out of our difficulties. 

I was particularly anxious about Sir Stafford’s 
health in an unaccustomed climate at the hottest time of 
the year. He showed such signs of fatigue that, when I 
remarked on this to Gandhiji, he said, Tell Sir Stafford 
that I can doctor him without fees.’ Bapu liked nothing 
better than doctoring people and had drawn up very 
strict dietary rules for himself. So I sent a letter to Sir 
Stafford full of dietary hints, along with a supply of 
fruit and vegetables. In his reply, Sir Stafford wrote:—- 

April 6, 1946. 

I was particularly touched with Mr. Gandhi’s offer, which I 
take in all seriousness since he, I know, shares the views of the 
lady who looks after my health in England (Beatrice Brett). I 
shall certainly ask him if I feel that I need any doctor. 

As to what you say about proteins, I have—since you spoke 
—asked for some sour milk to be provided. I had not thought 
of it before, but it is the form of milk that I really enjoy and 
which suits me. So you see your advice has been of great service 
already. 

The Cabinet Mission returned to England without 
much success. Congress’ acceptance of what was called 
‘the long term plan’ was considered a reason for inviting 


316 


THE COMING OF INDEPENDENCE 


it to form a government, but this enraged Mr. Jinnah, 
who previously—on behalf of his party—had appeared 
to outmanoeuvre the Congress by accepting both parts 
of it, the short and the long term. He denounced Lord 
Wavell, accusing him of bad faith and at first steadily 
refused to have anything to do with the formation of an 
interim government. Finally, however, he allowed re¬ 
presentatives of his party to join while he himself remain¬ 
ed aloof. It was evident that he put his representatives 
in, not in any spirit of coalition, but as watchdogs to see 
that their claims did not go by default. Hence from the 
start the interim Ministry was never a happy family, but 
a battlefield for two warring elements as unlikely to mix 
as oil and water. The terrible massacre, known as the 
Great Calcutta Killing, which followed was a reflection 
of ruthlessness elsewhere and the lives of thousands of 
innocent people counted for but little in the plans of poli¬ 
ticians. I wrote to Sir Stafford Cripps in October:— 

The League is joining the Interim Government in a sullen 
mood. Jinnah refused the terms offered by Jawaharlalji while he 
accepted the same terms from the Viceroy. This does not augur 
well for future understanding. 

* * fs * 

But more than politics the present poverty of our people 
needs serious attention from our Government. It has not been 
possible, however, for the Government to tackle economics. They 
are busy with politics which at present means only Jinnah ! 

In those difficult days both Bapu and Mr. Nehru 
worked heroically in Bengal and Bihar, where reprisals 
between the two communities were taking place. Sir 
Stafford wrote to me on the 18th November 1946:— 

I think Gandhiji’s contribution to pacification has been very 
marked and I am most grateful to him for all he has done. 

A long letter which Bapu wrote me speaks for it¬ 
self:— 


317 




IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


26-11-46. 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

You know I am staying at Srirampur all by myself, with 
Prof. Nirmal Chandra and Parasuram as my companions. The 
house where I am putting up belongs to a family of good people. 
There is only one Hindu house in the entire village, the rest 
are all Muslims. There are hundreds of villages over here which 
do not maintain much contact with each other by means of com 
veyance after the water dries up. The result is that work is 
possible only on foot. Therefore, only desperadoes, hooligans, or 
able-bodied gentlemen can maintain contact among themselves. 
I am living in one such village at present, and intend to spend 
my time in a village similar to this. It is my intention to stay on 
here just as long as the Hindus and Muslims do not become sin¬ 
cerely well-disposed towards each other. God alone can keep 
man’s resolve unshaken. Good-bye to Delhi, to Sevagram, to 
Uruli, to Panchgani—my only desire is to do or die. This will 
also put my non-violence to the test, and I have come here to 
emerge successful from this ordeal. If you are anxious to see 
me, then you can come here. I personally do not see any neces¬ 
sity for it. You can send your messenger or if you wish to 
send letters etc., by hand, then that also you can do. 

I am not going in to the Constituent Assembly ; it is not 
quite necessary either. Jawaharlal, Sardar, Rajen Babu, Rajaji, 
Maulana—any one or all five can go there—or Kripalani. 

Send this message to them :— 

If it is possible to arrange for a sitting of the Constituent 
Assembly only with the help of the military, then it is better not 
to arrange for it. If it can be arranged peacefully, then the laws 
can be framed only for the participating provinces. Let us see 
what will be the future of the police and the military. We' have 
also to see what Muslim majority provinces will do, how the 
British Government will conduct itself, and how the princes will 
behave themselves. I believe the State Paper of April 15 will 
have to be changed probably. The job is complicated enough, 
if we work independently. I have only given an indication of 
how I view things. 

Friends will also do well to bear in min d that what I am 
doing here is not in the name of the Congress. Nor is there any 
thought of associating it with this work. The work is purely 


318 


THE COMING OF INDEPENDENCE 


from the viewpoint of non-violence. Anybody, if he so desires, 
can publicly oppose my work. That in fact is his right—his duty 
even. Therefore, whosoever wishes to do anything, let him do 
it fearlessly. If anybody wants to warn me about anything, let 
him do that also. 

Please send a copy of this to Sardar so that he may tell the 
others named above. Or you can send copies of it to them and 
other friends yourself. 

Write to me direct so that I may reply. Pyarelal, Sushila, 
etc., all are in different villages. 

With Bapu’s blessings. 

In a very long letter—much too long to quote in 
full—which I wrote to Sir Stafford at this painful period 
I gave a gloomy picture of the situation:— 

After the Congress entered the Interim Government, the 
Viceroy, advised by Mr. Abell, did not allow us a moment’s rest 
to settle with the League. By his tactics he continued nursing the 
intransigence of the Muslim League. Jinnah went on abusing 
all and sundry. Dawn continued writing violent articles. And 
the Viceroy went on kowtowing to Jinnah. 

The League then entered the Government. We heaved a 
sigh of relief and concluded that the co-operation of the League 
in the Constituent Assembly was assured. We were told such 
assurances were taken from Mr. Jinnah. Nothing was done. At 
the last moment, the League showed its hand and refused to 
walk in. The Viceroy acquiesced. 

Immediately after the League joined the Government, 
things looked like settling down. The riots perhaps taught every¬ 
one that violence would not pay. As you know, the riots started 
in Calcutta. The Muslims attacked on Direct Action Day 
and the Hindus retaliated. Muslims suffered more than the 
Hindus. They smarted and planned to revenge Calcutta. And 
so came Noakhali. The mass conversion and abduction and 
forced marriages infuriated the Hindus; and so came Bihar fol¬ 
lowed by Meerut. 

Jinnah advocated exchange of population—a stupid pro¬ 
position. No Muslim worth the name supported it. But people 
in the U. P., Bihar and other places who are the biggest bulwarks 
of the League began to realise that even under a Pakistan those 


319 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

who were residing in the Hindu areas would still have to be there, 
and it would not help them in the least. The Leaguers in the 
U.P. wanted to compromise, and hints were thrown out of a 
coalition in the U. P. Had w 7 e succeeded, this should have led 
to compromises in other places. 

But then just at that psychological moment—as if it were 
to upset the whole plan—the Viceroy planned this visit to London. 
The exchange of cables between Jawaharlalji and the Prime 
Minister gave us an impression that there was no question of 
reopening the 16th May document. But now everything, in my 
opinion, has been reopened by implication. So many things have 
been left vague. Even up to this date we do not know what 
the exact position of Jinnah and H.M.G. is as regards the 
questions I have raised above. 

The Congress, I may assure you, is working with the best 
of intentions. You may criticise, as Lady Cripps did, the 
speeches of Sardar Patel. But the people would have very much 
misunderstood the situation had he kept silent. And I can tell 
you that they have not had a bad effect on the psychology 
of the Muslims. They have protested, but they have also realised 
the position. 

But if at every stage when we begin to settle down to work, 
the Viceroy, advised by the reactionary element in the Services, 
and H.M.G. advised by the Viceroy, put spokes in the wheel of 
the progress of the Constituent Assembly, then the only thing 
that can happen is that people will get desperate and the whole 
structure will collapse and the trust established after such great 
labour will be gone. The situation will then become more serious 
than before. 

Lady Cripps asked me what exactly could be done to help. 
I told her that the following were essential:— 

1. The Interim Government must be made to work as a 
team. The Muslim League should either participate in the Con¬ 
stituent Assembly or should leave the Interim Government. They 
must be told this frankly and firmly. 

2. While 1 don’t object to the principle of self-determina¬ 
tion and agree that no constitution should be imposed on any 
unwilling part of the country, it should be made clear, as you 
did in the State document of 16th May, that in the last resort if 
Muslims don’t join, they can have their own constitution only in 


320 



THE COMING OF INDEPENDENCE 

the places where they are in a majority; which means not the 
whole of the Punjab nor the whole of Bengal. We have no 
desire to dominate. But we shall not be coerced into being domi¬ 
nated. 

3. The Viceroy and the Service must play the game. Lord 
Wavell is not a politician and his advisers are pro-League who 
don’t desire to see India free. I have no doubt on that score. 

4. It is essential to make a declaration fixing the final dates 
when under all circumstances power will finally be transferred 
to Indian hands. As long as this uncertainty continues, no agree¬ 
ment is possible. 

I know the difficulty of H.M.G. I have no doubt that you 
are doing your best. But you must realise our difficulties too. 
Even with the best of intentions, the actions taken so far have 
not bridged the gulf but have only widened it. 

It would be presumptuous on my part to think that 
my suggestion for the naming of a definite date for In¬ 
dependence, a time limit in short, was the cause of the 
Labour Government’s decision to do so, and to recall 
Lord Wavell and send out Lord Mountbatten. It may 
have had some influence in that direction, I believe. 
Three days later I wrote again:— 

15th December, 1946. 

My dear Sir Stafford, 

After I wrote to you on the 12th, your speech appeared in 
full in India. It is a fair summary of the events. On the whole, 
the debate in the House of Commons could be called satisfactory. 
How I sympathise with you when you are abused by Churchill 
and Jinnah and also criticised by us ! 

I find you have replied in your speech to one of the points 
of my last letter. Referring to the last sentence of the statement 
of December 6, you have said that no constitution will be im¬ 
posed on those areas in which Muslims are in the majority. I have 
no quarrel with this. Nobody desires that any constitution made 
without the co-operation of Muslims should be imposed on East 
Bengal or West Punjab or other Muslim areas. But do you at 
all believe that Jinnah will co-operate? 

I have grave doubts whether in the end Jinnah will parti- 

321 

21 


) 

IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

cipate in the Constituent Assembly. And if he does so, it will 
be only with the object of fighting for Pakistan. I don’t see, 
therefore, any common ground between us. However, the Con¬ 
gress, I believe, will take a reasonable attitude and would welcome 
his co-operation. 

I personally think that the other members of the League are 
not so much the difficulty. Left to themselves, they would take 
a reasonable view. But I don’t think Jinnah will ever co-operate. 
That position must be faced by all realists. 

Meanwhile Bapu, to the exclusion of all other 
issues, strove valiantly but with only fitful successes for 
the cause of Hindu-Moslem unity, and was still 
marooned in East Bengal. His friends, including Sardar 
Patel, were more than doubtful of the wisdom of this 
prolonged marooning of himself in East Bengal, which 
was also putting a great strain upon his devoted helpers, 
who were compelled to live in acute discomfort in what 
one of them described as rat-holes. 

In this period a controversy arose about his rela¬ 
tionship with some of his female associates. There was 
nothing fundamentally wrong, but there was no dearth 
of uncharitable critics who would impute all sorts of 
blemishes to him. He desired' to issue a public state¬ 
ment, which Sardar thought would not be desirable. He 
and others thought that instead of telling the public his 
attitude on these matters, he, though perfectly spotless, 
should conduct himself as the world desired him to 
do. He did not like this. His distress revealed itself in 
a long letter to me:— 

Raipur, 14-2-47 . 

My dear Ghanshyamdas, 

I sent you a letter through Sushila. But I have been upset 
somewhat by Sardar’s letter. Devadas’s letter is still ringing in my 
ears. I do not remember what I wrote to you, for I have not kept 
a copy of it. All I wish to-day to write is that you should give up 
your attitude of neutrality. Sardar is quite clear in his mind that 
what I look upon as my dharma is really adharma. Devadas has 


322 



THE COMING OF INDEPENDENCE 


written as much. I have great faith in Sardar’s judgment. I have 
faith in Devadas’s judgment too, but then, though grown up, he is 
still in my eyes a child. This cannot be said of Sardar. K. and N. 
too are grown-ups ; but it is not difficult for me to understand their 
opposition. The link between you and me is your faith that my life 
is pure, spotless and wholly dedicated to the performance of 
dharma. If that is not so, very little else remains. I would, therefore, 
like you to take full part in this discussion, though not necessarily 
publicly—for I certainly do not want your business to suffer. 
But if I am conducting myself sinfully, it becomes the duty of 
all friends to oppose me vehemently. A satyagrahi [striver after 
truth] may end by becoming a duragrahi [votary of evil] if he 
comes to regard untruth as truth—that being the only distinction 
between the two. I believe that is not the case with me; but 
that means little, for after all I am not God. I can commit 
mistakes, I have committed mistakes ; [for aught one knows] this 
may prove to be my biggest at the fag-end of my life. If that 
be so, all my well-wishers can open my eyes if they oppose me. 
If they do not [it means] I shall go from hence even as I am 
[unreformed]. Whatever I am doing here is as a part of my 
yajna*. There is nothing I do knowingly which is not a part and 
parcel of that yajna. Even the rest I take is as a part of that 
yajna. 

I am dictating this with a mud-pack over my eyes and 
abdomen. Shortly afterwards I shall be going to the evening 
prayer meeting. M.’s episode is taking up a lot of my time, 
but I do not mind it because even her presence here is for the 
sake of that yajna. Her test constitutes a part of that yajna . 
I may not be able to explain it to you—that is a different matter. 
The point we must make our friends grasp is this : when I take 
M. in my lap, do I so as a pure-hearted father or as a father 
who has strayed from the path of virtue ? What I am doing is 
nothing new to me ; in thought I have done it for the last 50 years; 
in action, in varying degrees, over quite a number of years. Even 
if you sever all connection with me, I would not shed a tear. 
Just as I want to stick to my dharma, you have to stick to yours. 

To come to another matter, the Hindu weavers here—known 
as tantis —have been ruined. Their spinning wheels and houses 
have mostly been burnt. If they do not get a supply of yarn they 

* Duty. 


323 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

have either to be idle or take to earth work as day labourers.The 
officer in charge here tells me that the Government cannot provide 
them yam unless the Central Government helps. I told him 
I might be able to obtain the needed supply if they were prepared 
to pay for it. He was pleased. Can you supply the yam ; if ‘yes’ 
then how much, when and at what price ? Will it be necessary 
to obtain the sanction of the Interim Government ? Please let 
me know. 

With Bapu’s blessings. 

Needless to add that while appreciating all that he 
said I strongly opposed his reasons, and eventually he 
accepted our advice, though not under conviction. His 
enemies at that time were trying to give it the shape of a 
scandal and we thought that a public statement, though 
a correct and forthright step, could not be politic. We 
behaved like all worldly men and wanted him to do like¬ 
wise. Happily he fell in with our views and we were all 
extremely relieved. 

* * * *S 

This was the last important letter that I received 
from him, because a few months after that he returned 
to Delhi and stayed with me continuously for more than 
five months in my house, where he breathed his last. 

Instead of reciting the events of the last moments of 
his life, I may reproduce a portion of the broadcast which 
I made immediately after his death. 

This time Gandhiji did me the honour oj staying with me 
in Delhi for about five months, and along with him a sufficiently 
large party of men and women became my guests. Frankly 
speaking, some of his guests I did not like, nor were they liked 
by Bapu’s associates. Yet my house was open to everybody who 
came to Gandhiji. There was a regular stream of visitors pour¬ 
ing in from mom till late in the night and Gandhiji, unmindful 
of this strain, gave a bit of himself to everybody who came to 
him, either for darshan or advice. 

After the bomb incident in Birla House many of his closest 
associates requested Gandhiji to keep the crowd at bay. Sardar 


324 


THE COMING OF INDEPENDENCE 


Vallabhbhai Patel had specially deputed about 30 military men 
and about 20 policemen in plain clothes to watch and guard the 
prayer meeting. The police authorities even wanted to make 
individual searches of the persons of those who came to Gandhiji’s 
prayer meeting, but he would not agree to this. Somehow I 
vaguely felt that these security measures would not avail much to 
save Gandhiji if God ordained otherwise. His only answer to 
anxious concern about his safety was ‘God alone is my protector.* 

Of late he took more devoutly to Ram Nam as a master 
medicine, contrary to all the advice of his well-meaning physicians. 
After his last fast his digestion got upset. I suggested to him a 
simple household remedy. It was after a great deal of persuasion 
that he agreed to use it. Alas, his great physician Ram soon 
recalled him. 

His last fast caused many of his dearest disciples deep 
anxiety. I also tried to argue with him against the utility or 
aptness of this fast, but Gandhiji was firm. Not that Gandhiji 
was obstinate—he was always open to conviction. Gandhiji had 
his way of stimulating thought and enquiry in those who came 
to discuss. And what a patient listener of a constructive critic 
he was ! During his fast, urgent business summoned me to 
Bombay. But Gandhiji’s fast stood in my way. 

I went to take his permission and asked him if he did not 
agree with me that his fast should soon end. I was convinced 
that the country had reacted most favourably to his wish. 
Gandhiji smiled and said : ‘You mind your business. Why do 
you ask my permission ?* I asked him again : ‘Bapu, what do 
you think are the prospects of an early ending of your fast?’ 
Gandhiji continued to smile and was not willing to be caught 
in my trap. I recalled to him the story of Nachiketa and Yama 
and said : ‘Even Yama was perturbed when Nachiketa fasted at 
his door. How can I help feeling anxious and remorseful when 
a Mahatma fasts in my house ?’ To all my queries his only 
answer was : ‘My life is in the hands of my God.’ 

On that fateful Friday evening, Gandhiji was shot at about 
5-15 p.m. and he succumbed soon after. I was at that time at 
Pilani. At about 6 in the evening, college boys came running to 
me and broke the sad news they had heard over the radio. I 
immediately felt like dashing to Delhi by car. But my friends 
counselled me to go by plane the following morning. What a 


325 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

restless night I passed at Pilani! I know not if and when I slept 
or whether I was dreaming or my spirit had flown to Gandhiji. 
As if in a trance all of a sudden I was with Bapu. 

' I saw his dead body lying exactly at the place where he used 
to sleep. I saw Pyarelal and Sushila sitting by his side. Seeing 
me, Gandhiji got up as if from his sleep, and affectionately patting 
me said : ‘I am glad you have also come. Don’t worry about 
me, even though I have fallen a victim to a conspiracy. But I am 
going to dance with joy as my mission is now over.’ Then he 
pulled out his watch and said : ‘Oh, it is nearing 11 now and you 
have to take me to Jumna Ghat. So I had better lie down again.’ 

Suddenly I woke up and wondered whether it was a dream 
or an occult reality. 

The next day I found dear old Bapu lying in his eternal 
sleep as if nothing were the matter with him. His face radiated 
the same simple charm, love and purity. I could even detect a 
streak of compassion and forgiveness in that face. Alas, we 
would now be missing that face aglow with human warmth and 
kindliness. 

Indeed, a great light is extinguished, a mighty hero has fallen 
and a great spirit is hushed in silence. 

Thus ended my thirty-two years association with him ! 


326 


CHAPTER XXXII 

AFTER INDEPENDENCE 

When Independence came, two things were obviously of 
the first importance. One was that production should 
be rapidly increased. Through the capriciousness of the 
monsoons and consequent crop failures, and a number 
ofi.other causes, we were in danger of starvation, a repe¬ 
tition of the Bengal famine on a wider scale. For we 
were importing food on a large scale without either pro¬ 
ducing exports to pay for it or having markets in which 
to sell such exports as we could produce. Consequently, 
in order to make payments, we were using up our sterling 
balances at a fantastic rate. 

The second important factor was our own need for 
capital. There was no sufficient capital market in the 
country and plainly capital had to come from abroad. 
Unwise speeches made by Ministers in the first rush of 
enthusiasm were scaring off both domestic and foreign 
capital alike. In many directions they were inclined to 
follow the pattern set by the British Labour Government. 
As things have since turned out, they greatly over-esti¬ 
mated the economic successes of that Government and 
heavily under-estimated the cost. In the hope of mitiga¬ 
ting this state of affairs, both by finding means of increa¬ 
sing production and also of explaining India’s position, 
which at that time was much misunderstood, I visited 
Britain and America. It would perhaps be more correct 
to say that our position was much misunderstood in Bri¬ 
tain; and in America neither understood nor misunder¬ 
stood, but simply ignored by everybody except a few 
statesmen. The interest of these statesmen lay chiefly in 
our position, both geographically and morally, in the 
struggle against Communism. 

In England I was fortunate enough to have a 


327 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 

lengthy conversation with Mr. Churchill, but found him 
as misinformed about India as before. I wrote a long 
account of this to Sardar Patel, who had now taken the 
place of Bapu in my correspondence, and quote from this 
letter:— 

He suddenly blurted out : ‘I did not like your action in 
Hyderabad. You should have held a plebiscite/ I pointed out 
to him that now India was peaceful and that even Englishmen 
who had been out recently told me that no country in the wc^rld 
was more peaceful than India at present. Pandit Nehru and the 
Sardar were doing very well. We were stemming the tide of 
Communism. But we had to improve the lot of the people. We 
needed two things : a strong defence and quick industrialisation. 
This must be done immediately. Our leaders were pretty old 
men. Their word today was law. But if they can’t build up 
India within the next 10 years, I do not know what will happen 
after 10 years. 

T should not look 10 years ahead,’ he remarked. ‘One year 
is quite enough.’ 

Then I reminded him of what he told me in 1935, the message 
of friendliness conveyed through me to Gandhiji. We had free¬ 
dom now. We were friends and would like to be friends. Why 
was he talking in an unfriendly manner ? ‘I am no more un¬ 
friendly,’ he quickly came out. ‘If you will be kind to England, 
I will definitely reciprocate. We are likely to come back as a 
Government. The Socialists are getting unpopular, and therefore 
I do not want to do anything that may be interpreted in India 
as unfriendly. I never look back. I have been taught to look 
ahead. The past is forgotten. Now if you co-operate, I am- 
prepared to co-operate.’ I pointed out to him how Pandit Nehru, 
with all his past bitterness, had now decided to remain in the 
Commonwealth. He warmly remarked : ‘I very much appreciate 
his magnanimity.’ Then suddenly he asked me : ‘Have you got 
a National Anthem ? Is it a good tune ?’ I said : ‘Not very 
good.’ ‘Why don’t you play with your own National Anthem 
God save the King ? These small things help a lot. Canada has 
its own tune and yet side by side they play ours too. This creates 
a friendly feeling.’ I explained to him the difficulty but added : 
‘That will depend on England. If you are friends, perhaps it may 


328 


AFTER INDEPENDENCE 


come.’ He remarked : ‘I think it will come in course of time V 
When I told him that our greatest drawback was our poverty 
which we desired to eliminate within the shortest possible time, 
that unless we raised the standard of our people, nothing could 
stem the tide of Communism, and that England should co-operate 
with us in our task, he remarked : ‘Your poverty with your 
increasing population is a difficult problem.’ 

I asked him what impression Eden brought from India. He 
said : ‘He was very pleased. He told me about your conversation 
with him.’ Then he asked me whether Nehru would be able to 
see the Commonwealth formula through. I said : ‘I have no 
doubt. Socialists are not very strong. Communists are under¬ 
ground.’ I pointed out to him that Britain must help us more 
than any other country. He agreed and again affirmed his desire 
to be friendly, but added Pakistan had enough water resources and 
food. 

Everybody seems to think that the Socialists here are losing 
ground. I would not be surprised, therefore, if in the next elec¬ 
tion Labour comes in with a much reduced majority. 

I am meeting Mr. Alexander tomorrow. 

6th May, 1949. 

I met Anthony Eden for half an hour yesterday. He told 
me that at the Tea he had with you in Delhi, you told him 
that subject to the status quo in our Constitution, you will be 
prepared to remain in the Commonwealth. This he conveyed to 
Attlee and also Churchill, and strongly asked the latter to help. 
He is highly satisfied with the result. 

I talked to him about the need of building up a strong India 
militarily as well as industrially, and to that end the U.K. should 
co-operate with us. He said he would talk to (Lord) Alexander 
about military equipment, and about industries to City men. Now 
that India was in the Commonwealth, he said that they would 
all co-operate. He was nice and cordial. 

On my return to London from America I again 
reported to the Sardar in July:— 

11th July, 1949 . 

So far I have met here, the Prime Minister, Mr. Alexander, 
Mr. Bevin, Mr. Noel-Baker, Sir John Anderson and Mr. Churchill. 


329 


IN THE SHADOW OF THE MAHATMA 


I am likely to meet some of them again and many more in the 
next week. Cripps I am meeting in a day or two. 

The resignation of Mudie and the impending visit of Liaquat 
to Moscow are not being taken here very seriously. They do not 
like it, but they think that it is a bluff just to get concessions 
out of Great Britain. The effect of all this from the point of 
view of Pakistan has not been bad. Pakistan is still treated as 
an under-dog. And while we are thought to be good, reasonable 
and respectable persons, it is always suggested that we should 
try to keep them in humour. If they collapse, it would not be 
to our interest; so we are advised. 

About Kashmir, they are all very much worried. While 
the people here appreciate the position of Jammu and the Bud¬ 
dhist area, they do not understand why we should insist on a 
substantial Muslim area like Kashmir valley being included in 
India. 

As regards Hyderabad, nobody is troubled over it. It is 
all forgotten. The chief thing today is Kashmir, and everybody 
seems to be in favour of some sort of partition. 

As regards the economic condition, it is very bad here. But 
what is most remarkable is the way they are fighting it out, in a 
very scientific manner with grim determination. They may not 
be able to maintain their present standard of life. But they 
would not allow it to go down without a serious struggle. 

As regards investment from England, there are better possi¬ 
bilities here than in America. I have had a few talks with busi¬ 
nessmen and they were not disappointing. There are certain 
difficulties which will have to be solved. But here again I think 
I can do something. 

14th July , 1949. 

After I wrote you last, I met Lord Halifax and Mr. Crowther, 
the Editor of the London Economist. I was lunching today with 
Lady Mountbatten along with Lady Cripps and Pamela Mount- 
batten. In the afternoon, I met Lord Camrose and his Editor, 
viz., of the Daily Telegraph. 

Lady Mountbatten was not quite happy about our general 
administration. She thought that we were centralising too much 
and that the Ministers were overworked. She was slightly critical 
in a very friendly manner. She asked me to convey her affec- 


330 


AFTER INDEPENDENCE 

donate regards to the Sardar. So did Mr. Alexander, the Defence 
Minister, and also Lady Cripps. 

At lunch for nearly ten minutes Lady Mountbatten, her 
daughter and Lady Cripps vied with each other in paying high 
tributes to Maniben who, had she been present, would have 
blushed and felt embarrassed. 

The Daily Telegraph, and occasionally the Daily Express, are 
still both unfriendly to us. Yesterday there was a mischievous 
despatch from India describing the deteriorating relations between 
Britishers and Pakistanis, for which the correspondent blames 
India ! I had a long talk with Camrose and his Editor on the 
matter. 

Noel-Baker was anxious about Kashmir. He believes in 
plebiscites. But I gather that he believes in regional plebiscites 
and not in a plebiscite as a whole. 

Beyond this I need not go. 


331 








■ 

' 

. 
























. .. . 
























I 


















■ . 










■ 
















' 


; 


























APPENDIX (see p. 54) 

Resolution of the Federation of Indian Chambers of 

Commerce and Industry 

*(1) That the Federation is strongly of opinion that the present 
repressive policy of Government will be no solution of the 
existing unhappy state of the country and urges upon 
Government that it should be substituted by a policy of 
reconciliation so that an atmosphere suitable for framing 
a constitution acceptable to the people and for its smooth 
working thereafter may be created. 

(2) That the Federation regrets the interpretation put upon the 
Committee’s resolution dated the 22nd January 1932, in 
view of the express statement with which it opens that the 
Committee of the Federation recognise it to be their duty 
to take part in the framing of a suitable constitution for 
India. 

(3) The Federation feels that having regard to the repressive 
policy and having regard to the experience of its delegation 
in London at the last session of the Round Table Confer¬ 
ence, participation by its representative in the work of the 
Consultative Committee can be productive of no good to 
national interests unless :— 

(a) there is a genuine desire on the part of the Govern¬ 
ment to change that policy and to discuss and come 
to an agreement with the progressive opinion of 
India on the questions of financial autonomy, safe¬ 
guards, reservations and trading rights ; 

(b) towards this end, the Consultative Committee is at 
liberty to have a free and full discussion on the 
various questions connected with finance and the 
questions connected with trading rights, financial 
safeguards, etc., are referred to a committee com¬ 
posed of an equal number of British and Indian 
experts, the latter to be such men as command the 
confidence of this Federation.’ 

Paragraph three, as it was framed in an earlier version 

of the above resolution 

(3) That the Committee heard their delegate to the Round Table 
Conference and learnt with regret that no adequate oppor- 


333 



APPENDIX 


tunity was made available for the examination and full dis¬ 
cussion of the questions of reservations, financial safeguards 
and trading rights and resolved that in their opinion the 
question of financial safeguards and trading rights should 
be examined by a committee of businessmen with not less 
than one half of Indian personnel commanding the confi¬ 
dence of the Federation with a view to explore the possibi¬ 
lity of an agreed solution of these questions. 


334 


INDEX OF PROPER NAMES 


Alam, Dr., 79 
Alexander, Horace, 257 
Alexander, Lord, 315, 329 
Ambedkar, Dr., 69, 80, 83, 100 
Anderson, Sir John, 58, 64, 65, 
66-7, 73, 117, 129, 150, 329 
Andrews, C. F., 133, 147, 151 
Ansari, Dr., 136, 165 
Attlee, C. R., 171, 184, 185, 271, 
272, 316, 329 

Bajaj, Seth Jamnalal, 7, 8, 14, 33, 
93 

Baldwin, Lord, 45, 170, 171, 174, 
175, 178, 181, 188 
Banerji, Dr. Suresh, 76, 78, 82-3, 
85 

Basanti Devi, 77, 

Basu, J. N., 145 
Benn, Wedgwood, 42, 45, 185 
Benthall, Sir Edward, 47, 53, 56, 
113, 118, 119 
Bentinck, Lord, 5 
Bevin, Ernest, 329 
Bhargava, Thakurdas, 92 
Birla, Rameshwardas, 14, 214, 266 
Blackett, Sir Basil, 55, 59, 170, 
174 

Bone, Mr., 174, 188 
Bose, Sarat Chandra, 196 
Bose, Subhas Chandra, 196 
Brockway, Fenner, 272 
Butler, R. A., 169-70, 174, 175, 
178, 180, 184 

Cadell, Sir Patrick, 286, 290-91 
Camrose, Lord, 330 
Canterbury, the Archbishop of, 188 
Catto, Sir Thomas, 174 
Chiang Kai-shek, 256, 258-9 
Chamberlain, Sir Austen, 174, 188 
Chamberlain, Neville, 246 
Chatterjee, Ramananda, 92-3, 95, 
145 

Chelmsford, Lord, 180 
Churchill, Sir Winston, 72, 154, 
158, 189-92, 222-4, 237, 239, 
240, 241, 253-4, 328, 329 
Churchill, Lady, 189, 190 
Cocks, Seymour, 184 
Collins, Michael, 237 
Cotton, Sir Henry, 274 


Craik, Sir Henry, 143, 145, 154- 
8, 207 

Cripps, Sir Stafford, 314-17, 319-21 
Cripps, Lady, 320, 330-31 
Croft, W. D., 68 
Crowther, Geoffrey, 330 
Cunningham, Sir George, 143, 242-3 

Dass, C. R., 12, 172 
Das Gupta, Satish, 76, 78, 82-3, 85, 
107, 108 

David, Mr., 105-6 
Davies, Rhys, 184 
Dawson, Geoffrey, 188 
Desai, Bhulabhai, 136, 144, 145, 
163, 193 

Desai, Mahadev, 1, 18, 39, 95, 116- 
7, 121, 146, 147-8, 149, 161, 
162, 164, 203-4, 216, 222, 224 
227, 228, 234, 236, 238-9, 240, 
243, 245-9, 255, 264, 277, 278- 
83, 285-6, 293-5, 297,300-4, 306 
Desai, Morarji, 243 
Derby, Lord, 174, 180, 185, 189, 
274 

Eden, Anthony, 179 
Edwards, Charles, 184 
Emerson, Sir Herbert, 179, 201 

Fischer, Louis, 255-6 

Gandhi, Bhagwanji, 124 
Gandhi, Devadas, 83-4, 93, 100, 
152, 283, 300, 323 
Gandhi, Kasturbai (Ba), 15 
Gay da, Signor, 131-5 
Ghose, Tusar Kanti, 152 
Gibson, Sir Edmund, 286, 289, 
290-93, 295-8 

Gour, Sri Hari Singh, 188-9 
Griffiths, James, 279 
Gupta, J. C., 93, 95, 101 
Gwyer, Sir Maurice, 286, 293-4 

Haig, Sir Harry, 245 
Hailey, Sir Malcolm, 60 
Halifax, Lord, 42, 44, 128, 138-40, 
170, 174, 175, 178, 180, 188, 
189, 192, 196, 210, 211, 216, 
219, 230, 240, 259, 272, 330 


335 





INDEX OF PROPER NAMES 


Harrison, Agatha, 129, 130, 131, 
151 

Hathwa, Maharaja of, 102 
Henderson, Arthur, 315 
Hitler, Adolf, 202, 250-52 
Hoare, Sir Samuel, 45, 49, 52-4, 
58, 60, 63, 67-8, 70, 130, 144, 
152-4, 159, 170, 171, 174, 175, 
178, 271 

Irwin, Lord, see Halifax 
lyenger, Srinivas, 26, 29 
Iyer, Ranga, 96, 100 

Jayakar, M. R., 22, 26-7, 45, 49, 
65 

Jinnah, M.A-, 160, 256-7, 259, 

268, 314, 317, 321-2 
Jones, Morgan, 184 
Joshi, Chhaganlal, 80 

Kalelkar, Mr., 116 
Kamalapatji, Lala, 118 
Khaitan, Debi Prasad, 77, 107 
Khan, Abdul Ghaffar, 196, 211, 
235, 243 

Khan, Ajmal Hakim, 10, 13 
Khan, Liaquat Ali, 259, 300-301 
Khan Sahib, 176, 208, 235, 238 
Kidwai, Rafi Ahmad, 249 
Knight, Robert, 274 
Kuhne, Louis, 36 
Kunzru, Pandit Hriday Nath, 80, 
118 

Laithwaite, Sir Gilbert, 214, 248- 
50, 280, 286-93, 305-7 
Lansbury, George, 184 
Layton, Sir Walter, 119, 188 
Lester, Muriel, 36-7, 129, 130 
Linlithgow, Lord, 166, 174, 184, 
185, 186-7, 196-7, 199-202, 205- 
15, 235, 242-3, 246, 247-8, 250, 
252, 258, 261, 286, 299-300, 
305 

Lloyd George, David, 174, 181 
Lothian, Lord, 55, 62-9, 119, 170-71 
174, 175, 178, 198, 209, 224-7, 
239, 272 

Lothian, Sir Arthur, 246 
Lumley, Sir Roger, 221, 236, 237 

MacDonald, James Ramsay, 44, 
172, 174, 181 
Maclean, Prof., 131 
Madhusudandas, Sri, 14 


Malaviya, Pandit Madan Mohan, 
12, 17-8, 20-21, 25-30, 34, 36, 
44, 65, 100, 101, 103, 104, 136, 
145, 146, 161 
Martin, Kingsley, 188 
Mayo, Katharine, 28, 29 
Miraben, 131, 132, 135-6 
Mistri, Ganeshilal, 88 
Mitra, Sir Brojendra Lai, 103 
Mitra, S. C., 100, 306 
Moonje, Dr., 65, 92 
| Moore, Arthur, 142-3, 147, 261, 

I 294, 301, 304 
Mountbatten, Lord, 274, 321, 330 
Mountbatten, Lady, 330-31 
Mountbatten, Pamela, 330-31 
Munshi, K. M-, 263 
Mussolini, Benito, 252 
Mysore, Maharaja of, 36 

Naidu, Sarojini, 7 
Narang, Gokul Chand, 162 
Narendranath, Raja, 161 
Nehru, Jawaharlal, 196, 202, 206, 
213-4, 223, 226, 233, 234, 244, 
256, 329 

Nehru, Kamala, 79 
Nehru, Motilal, 12, 26 
Noel-Baker, Philip, 329, 331 

Page-Croft, Sir Henry, 170, 174 
Paling, W., 184 
Pandit, Indra, 89, 90 
Pandya, Mr., 165, 166 
Pant, Govindaballav, 245-6 
Passfield, Lord, 185 
Patel, Maniben, 331 
Patel, Sardar Vallabhbhai, 145, 158, 
162, 168, 237, 293, 294-5, 322-3, 
325 328 

Patel,’Vithalbhai, 25-7, 29, 163 
Pethick-Lawrence, Lord, 315 
Philips, Mr., 271 
Prasad, Sir Jagdish, 280 
Prasad, Parmeshweri, 166 
Prasad, Dr. Rajendra, 145, 161, 

162, 163, 165 
Pyarelal, 269, 270 

Rai, Lala Lajpat, 12, 20-31, 172 
Raichandji, Shri, 10 
Rainey, Sir George, 54, 65 
Rajagopalachariar, C. R., 79, 81, 
84, 86, 99, 102, 103, 151, 193, 
230, 243-4, 145-6, 256 
Rajkot, the Thakur of, 286, 290 


336 







INDEX OF PROPER NAMES 


Rao, Raghavendra, 227 
Reading, Lord, 55, 119, 174, 180 
Rolland, Romain, 33 
Ronaldshay, Lord, see Lord Zetland 
Roy, Dr. B. C., 75-85, 93, 95, 107- 
10, 129, 136, 201 
Roy, Sir P. C., 108 
Rugby, Lord, 173 

Salisbury, Lord, 174, 188-9 
Sanyasi, Ramananda, 88 
Sapru, Sir Tej Bahadur. 45, 48-50, 
67, 209, 263 

Sarkar, Sir N. R., 162, 201, 231-2 
Scarborough, Lord, 221 
Scarpa, Dr., 130, 147 
Schuster, Sir George. 55, 170, 174. 
235 

Shadi Lai, Sir, 22, 23 

Shastri, Shri, 95, 97 

Shastriji, Vaidya Tryambak, 38 

Shriram, Lala, 105 

Singh, Gaya Prasad, 100 

Singh, Gyani Tara, 162 

Singh, Dr. Mangal, 36 

Singh, Master Tara, 162 

Slade, Miss, see Miraben 

Smith, Tom, 184 

Sorensen, the Rev. Reginald, 272 


Stewart, Sir Findlater, 60, 61, 169, 
173, 174, 175, 178, 183 
Strakosh, Sir Henry, 119, 174 
Suhrawardy, H. S., 7 
Sushila (Nair), Dr., 264, 294 
Symonds, Mr., 257 

Tagore, Rabindranath, 108, 147 
Templewood, Lord, see Sir Samuel 
Hoare 

Thakurdas, Sir Purshottamdas, 49, 
52, 53, 57, 71, 72 

Thakkar, Amritalal, 80, 83, 95, 101, 
111, 116, 126, 127, 286, 290 

Virawala, Shri, 286 
Viyogiji, 112, 116, 120 

Wajiduddin, Haji, 100 
Waverley, Lord, see Sir John 
Anderson 

Wavell, Lord, 261, 317, 321 
Williams, Tom, 184 
Willingdon, Lord, 44, 60, 66, 139, 
144, 171, 175, 201, 206, 209 
Wilmont, John, 184 

Zetland, Lord, 170, 172-3, 174 
175, 178, 183, 233 


22 


337 





















( Contd. jrom front inside flap , 

the late Lord Derby, Mr. Ramsay 
MacDonald, Lord Baldwin and Sir Winston 

Churchill. 

\\ 

G. D. Birla-was a member of the Round 
Table Conference and spent much of his 
time in England while the Government of 
India Act , 1935, was before Parliament. 
By extracting assurances from British states¬ 
men that the reserve powers of the Gover¬ 
nor-General and the Governors would be 
sparingly used, he strove indefatigably to 
allay the suspicion of politically conscious 
India that the Act marked no significant ad¬ 
vance on the path of Self-Government. It 
is significant that eventually, in 1937, on 
Gandhiji*s advice, Congress agreed to accept 
office. Throughout the war years Gandhiji 
and Birla were in constant touch with each 
other, and Birla strove hard to prove that 
Gandhiji was not behind the violence that 
broke out in 1942. 

• • • •• V ■ ■-' 6 1 • v 

This, then, is the story of India between 
the two wars and after, the story of events 
that culminated in Independence and of the 
men who moulded these events. Very few 
people have had the unique facilities enjoyed 
by G. D. Birla, who moved freely both in 
the political and commercial worlds. This 
memoir records the experience of a patriot 
who has worked tirelessly for the education 
and uplift of his less fortunate brothers, and 
who has always striven to keep the welfare 
of his country to the fore.